The historic Stagecoach Inn in Salado is looking better than new – Entertainment & Life – Austin 360
Like many Central Texans, Clark Lyda remembers stopping off with his family at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, an old road getaway 50 miles north of Austin.
“Yes, I remember the silent puppies, the tomato aspic, the strawberry kiss and the iced tea,” says Lyda with a grin. “All the waitresses were old women. No alcohol. It was all so quiet.”
As early as 1852, a stage line was established between Austin and Waco with an intersection on the picturesque Salado Creek. The oldest parts of the current hotel complex date back to 1861. According to the Texas Handbook, Sam Houston, George Custer and Jesse James stayed at the Shady Villa Hotel.
The iconic restaurant in the timber frame construction didn’t arrive until 1943 when Ruth and Dion Van Bibber bought the old Shady Villa. It has hardly changed in the next few decades. The waiter rattled off the Prix Fixe menu, which contained an odd selection – tomato aspic? “Really?” – To a young, attentive Lyda that would have seemed like a relic from an earlier historical era.
A modern motel was added in the 1950s when the interregional highway now known as Interstate 35 ran west of Salado, a village that had become a handicrafts mecca in the early 20th century.
The whole affair felt floating in amber, never to change no matter how much was going on in Austin and the rest of the world.
The Stagecoach Inn was changed in the form of an intermediate owner who neglected the place. Then road crews came to expand Interstate 35 and starve Salado’s quaint Main Street – and with it the Stagecoach Inn – for five years.
But Lyda, a successful restaurateur, former member of the Georgetown city council and most recently developer of the Commodore Perry and Music Lane projects in Austin, could see the shimmer under the crust of time. He bought the recently closed Stagecoach Inn in 2015 and soon became involved in the project by his Williamson County partners David Hays and Austin Pfiester.
Two years ago, Lyda reopened the Stagecoach Inn restaurant with La Corsha Hospitality Group, who led the reopening of Green Pastures as Mattie’s.
The restaurant has an inviting lobby and full bar, and offers a new menu with elements that are reminiscent of the past but are prepared in harmony with some of the most inventive dishes in Austin. The silent pups, tomato aspic, and chicken salad are back, but with distinct twists and turns.
At the beginning of this year, Lyda opened the first 48 completely renovated motel rooms. Currently discounted rates range from $ 139 to $ 169, and are not far from what would be a Hampton Inn these days. In addition to the 48 luxury rooms, the hotel offers a heated and cooled pool and sensitive landscaping with rain-covered bays, palm trees and extensive green areas that replaced a crumbling parking lot.
“The hotel doors are tailor-made,” emphasizes Lyda, “and are painted red, blue, green and yellow, which sets them apart.”
Soon 52 more rooms will complete the courtyard, and a sound screen is planned to block the noise from the freeway. The renovation of the old conference center next to the creek will be part of the next phase of construction, along with additional landscaping to open up the portion of the property that gently slopes down to Salado Creek.
Roots in central Texas
While some Austin developers are swinging oversized personalities, Lyda, 58, who hails from an old ranch and investment family in central Texas, remains inconspicuous. When asked, the empathetic Lyda often answers thoughtfully but sardonically.
When asked what his favorite real estate projects were, for example, he answers with typically dry humor.
“I hate them all,” he says. “By the time they’re built I’m so tired of all the problems and compromises that I’m ready to forget about them. They leave a sour taste in my mouth. But I do projects that no one else wants to do because I am . ” persistent, impractical and actually I like the creative process. I get to work with really talented people, amazing people who make a difference. “
His father, Don M. Lyda, was born in 1920 and grew up in rural Burnet County. After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in accounting and piloting during World War II, the elderly Lyda got into banking, accounting, real estate and charity work in Austin, particularly United Way. As a chartered accountant, he owned and operated a ranch near Florence, not far from Salado.
He died in 1992 and is in Lyda Cemetery on the ranch.
Clark’s mother, Mary Click “Nicki” Smith Lyda, was born in Kingsland in 1919 and grew up in Counties Llano and Burnet before teaching, mostly in rural classrooms. She and her husband bought and renovated several old Austin homes. They also acquired small farms and ranches, including those in New Sweden, Jollyville, and Leander.
They raised a daughter, Peggy Lyda McKenzie, and two sons, Clark and Don Lyda. Nicki died in 2013 and was buried next to her husband in the Lyda family cemetery.
Clark Lyda is from Austin and attended school on the Commodore Perry Estate in the Hancock neighborhood, across from the original Austin Country Club, in the 1970s. In recent years he has shaped this property from 1928 above Waller Ceek into a hotel and retreat, which is expected to open in early 2020.
“I had a strange relationship with this property,” Lyda told the American statesman in 2011 when an initial phase of renovation of the Perry Estate was complete. “It’s a strange duck. … Everything is out of whack.”
Clark earned a degree in business administration from Southwestern University in Georgetown and a law degree from the University of Texas. He flies planes and produces films. He now lives part-time in New York City, although he also owns an immaculately restored 1934 Spanish Revival home in Austin’s Travis Heights neighborhood.
His youthful fascination for architecture and architects – and especially for conservation – served him well as a developer. In Georgetown he opened and owns two restaurants, the Monument Café and the El Monumento, in historic buildings.
As a member of the Georgetown District 2 City Council following a controversial 1999 election, Lyda led charges of blocking the construction of a large water park on the freeway and promoted the protection of the district around the Court Square, one of the best preserved and used historical zones in the state.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he revitalized the Austin Opera House in South Austin as Terrace, the name of the mid-century motel that originally used the low building as a conference center. Together with partners, he is transforming a large part of the rest of the land in which the motel was located into a multi-level mixed-use project Music Lane and the Magdalena boutique hotel.
What is new, what has been preserved
The 175-year-old oak tree that surrounds the Stagecoach Inn’s restaurant is hard to miss. If you keep browsing, you will find a spring house with a deep well that never dried up in living memory, as well as other natural and historical wonders.
Crossing a dry stream from the restaurant to the former motel is like stepping into another century. The inn must have looked pretty much in the space age in the late 1950s and early 1960s when this reporter spent special nights there with his family.
Now the rooms have large windows and a mid-century style designed by Austin architectural firm Clayton & Little and inspired by the creator of the California ranch house, Cliff May.
Each room is like a small ranch house, decorated with Naugahyd fabrics, Saltillo tiles, cypress wood, Indian fabrics and the comforts one would expect from top Austin hotels. The whole place seems to be prepared for guests, not just large wedding receptions or family gatherings. Old postcards and pencils in every room are reminiscent of past road trips.
Before it opened, the motel project slowed down every time builders noticed additional structural problems.
“We thought it was a renovation,” says Lyda, “but it was a renovation.”
It is significant that the entrance to the complex is now back where it started, on Salado’s main drag. The highway to the west is something to ignore, not to celebrate.
What about the artists and artisans who once lined Main Street, including famous fashionista Grace Jones? (Not the singer.) A five-year TxDOT project to expand Interstate 35 drove away about two-thirds of them.
Lyda expects artists to return. It would only take a few key characters to move into a revitalized salado. The Stagecoach Inn complex will be waiting for you.
All Lyda projects have one thing in common: respect for design. It recalls a time when ordinary people came into contact with important buildings – post offices, courthouses, schools, churches, even private houses – that gave weight, atmosphere and dignity to everyday public life.
“I firmly believe in the power of architecture to influence people’s lives positively or negatively,” says Lyda. “Thoughtless architecture takes a toll on everyone who comes into contact with it. On the other hand, well-thought-out architecture can have a clearly positive effect. I want to create places that are beautiful, inspire and function well.”