Pack a Bag: The Stagecoach Inn, Part I

From Little Rock, we headed south to Salado, Texas. We stayed at the Stagecoach Inn, which is a Historic Hotel of America, and nominated for the Historic Hotel of America 2018 New Member of the Year. To be considered for Historic Hotel of America (the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest historic hotels across America) status, a hotel must be at least fifty years old, either a National Historic Landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places, and recognized as having historic significance.

Fun fact: While there are 90,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only 2,500 are National Historic Landmarks. If a property is designated as a latter, it is automatically added as a former. Both programs are administered by the National Park Service. Talk about a dream job!

The Stagecoach Inn was founded in Salado in 1861, though back then it was known as the Shady Villa Hotel; as such it is suspected to be one of the oldest remaining structures in town. During this period, the hotel located on the Chisholm Trail played host to several notables: Sam Houston, General George Custer, and Jesse James. The hotel was renovated by later owners Dion and Ruth Van Bibber, better known as Mr. and Mrs. Van, in 1943. This time period was when Mrs. Van established the Stagecoach Inn as the central Texas dining destination and put the restaurant and its prix fixe menu on the map.

Clark Lyda, one of the current co-owners as of 2015, saw an opportunity to revive the Stagecoach Inn, which had become decrepit since the property had changed hands numerous times in the shadow of the retirement of Mr. and Mrs. Van. The hotel had served as the host for many family vacations throughout Lyda’s youth. This personal connection poised the Stagecoach Inn for a thoughtful and sensitive renovation of both the accommodations and the restaurant by preservation architecture firm, Clayton & Little.

Sincerest thanks to the Stagecoach Inn for sponsoring my stay.

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