This fall saw the debut of the Hotel Ella, a 47-room hotel in Austin, Texas, set in a reimagined former mansion. Located on Rio Grande Street in Austin's West Campus neighborhood, the 19th-century Greek Revival structure was initially built for Dr. Wooten as a present to his new bride (Ella Wooten) in 1898, and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
The only Texas inclusion in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, the Hotel Ella offers 10 standout suites. Austin architect Michael Hsu went to town on the renovation, striving to retain some of the character from Neiman Marcus's $10,000 renovation in 1925, such as columns and crown molding, but also adding contemporary flair. For example, a brand-new lap pool is encircled by cabanas, and all rooms feature a granite-topped writing desk. Also in each room are natural body care products, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, and access to free Wi-Fi.
A major perk for guests is complimentary chauffeured transportation within a 5-mile radius, courtesy of the hotel's Cadillac vehicles. For those traveling with dogs, there are pet-friendly rooms (with a bed and bowl for pups), along with a canine-appropriate room service menu. Throughout the property is a sense of elegance and whimsy, with a slate-grey exterior complemented by neutral hues in the furnishing and linens, and stone sculptures with a timeless bent (fitting, as Dr. Wooten collected sculptures).
A restaurant within the hotel is named for the property's first occupant: Goodall's Kitchen & Bar, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as weekend brunch. Echoing Austin's farm-to-table ethos, many dishes are sourced from local ingredients, such as locally harvested pecans on the bruschetta, Wateroak Farms chèvre with poblano in a custard side, or Johnson's Backyard Garden's grilled Japanese eggplant alongside seared bay scallops.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new-hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living, and American Way. In 2006, she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Hotel Ella