There’s something about old, historical buildings that draws us in. It may be the unique architecture that makes the structures so easy to gaze at. Or perhaps it’s the thought of the secrets that are carried between the walls that allows our imaginations to go wild. The South is full of beautiful, historic buildings that have fascinating and storied pasts; let’s take a look at three different Southern structures that stand out among the rest.
The Duke Mansion is a gorgeous Colonial Revival bed and breakfast and meeting place on the National Register of Historic Places. The 20th-century home was originally built in 1915. However, despite the name, The Duke Mansion was not built by James Buchanan Duke of Duke University and Duke Energy fame. In fact, the Dukes only lived in the home for seven years after James Duke bought the property in 1919 from Zeb Taylor. Duke bought the home as a way to introduce his daughter Doris to life in the South. After purchasing it, however, Duke tripled it in size by adding 32,000 square feet of living space, and he is responsible for creating the elegant mansion that exists today.
The Duke Mansion features 20 guest rooms, each individually and tastefully decorated with art and antiques. With a magnificent garden in the back and 4.5 acres to explore, the property this mansion resides on is to die for. The most elegant and luxurious room is the Dowd Suite, with a beautiful view of the courtyard and gardens. It’s appointed with a king-sized bed, a shared sleeping porch and a spacious bathroom with a Roman spa tub and shower for two — perfect for a weekend getaway with your significant other. Best of all, The Duke Mansion is a non-profit, so all proceeds are used to preserve this historic treasure. You can do good while enjoying an elegant escape!
FUN FACTS: Some notable names have stayed at The Duke Mansion, including John F. Kennedy, who went to the mansion to attend the wedding of a former girlfriend, Frances Cannon, who lived there. Additionally, the TV series “Homeland” featured the mansion as the Vice President’s house.
When you walk through the doors of Nashville’s historic Union Station Hotel, it’s like taking a step back to a time when travel was a luxury. Originally built in 1900, the building once served as a railroad terminal reaching peak usage during World War II, when tens of thousands of U.S. troops shipped out. Since then, however, the former train station has been beautifully restored and converted into a wonderfully unique hotel located on Nashville’s bustling midtown section of Broadway.
The late-Romanesque Revival architecture, with its turrets and towers, was a testament to American ingenuity and energy. Union Station was a then-modern marvel, surprising and delighting travelers for decades with ornate wood carvings, sparkling stained glass, beautiful Italian marble and soaring ceilings. Celebrities often visited the regal structure, including movie star Mae West as well as mafia kingpin Al Capone, who was escorted through the station on his way to the Georgia penitentiary. At one time, the track level even held two alligator ponds!
The next time you’re heading to Music City, book your stay at the Union Station and soak in the beauty and opulence of this beloved Nashville landmark.
Jesse Driskill was a wealthy Texas cattle baron with a desire to go big or go home, and when he opened The Driskill in 1886, he delivered. Built for a whopping $400,000, the hotel was perhaps ahead of its time — it was forced to close less than a year after its opening due in large part to Driskill having lost his wealth in cattle drives, as well as the fact that guests weren’t willing to shell out the $2.50-per-night cost, which was more than double what other hotels in the area were charging. The hotel changed hands several times in the years following Driskill’s death, and the structure also underwent several renovations, bringing it up to date and upgrading its luxe factor.
The future of The Driskill was bleak in the late 1960s, when it was scheduled for demo. However, an 11th-hour save by a group called The Driskill Hotel Corporation saved it from the chopping block for a price of $900,000. The hotel reopened in 1972 and has welcomed guests to Austin ever since. Now a Hyatt hotel, The Driskill offers one of the nicest hotel options in the city and features 189 guest rooms, two restaurants, a grand ballroom and close proximity to all that Austin has to offer.
FUN FACTS: Famous folks who have enjoyed a stay at The Driskill include President Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bob Dylan and Sandra Bullock. And the political history of The Driskill is impressive as well. President Lyndon Johnson hung out in the Jim Hogg room while waiting to hear the he had won his Senate seat in 1948, the Vice-Presidency in 1960 and the Presidency in 1964. Additionally, several Texas governors’ inaugural balls have been held at The Driskill, including Sul Ross, William Hobby and Dan Moody.
Looking for more amazing Southern hotels? Check out our travel section, and start planning your next getaway!