West Texas is more known for its extraordinary land, not its plethora of luxurious accommodations. Finding full-service hotels, much less ones with aesthetic elegance and cuisine, is a rarity. Marfans and Marfa-lovers were, therefore, tickled pink over the opening of the new Hotel Saint George, which celebrated its grand opening in 2016.
This is a truely unique boutique hotel. The first floor contains the lobby, Bar Saint George, LaVenture restaurant, Marfa Book Company, and a historic wine room. The room accommodations are housed in the top three floors.. “Hotel Saint George is a bit of an oasis in the desert. From the bookstore to the art, the design, the quality of the spirits behind the bar, and the finishings in the rooms, you could be in any major city in the world,” said Ex ecutive Chef of the hotel, Allison Jenkins.
The hotel itself could be classified as a work of art that intrinsically belongs in Marfa. The artistic vision was indeed collaborative; thanks to owner Tim Crowley, the Hotel Saint George sits tall and proud yet unassuming in its right to be there. Formally the President of Chinati (the Judd museum) and owner of Crowley Theater, Tim is a major collector and vital member of the community. “We were very inspired by Tim, who is very influential and involved in developing various parts of Marfa,” said Mary Alice Palmer, Associate Principal, and Senior Vice President of the interior designers on the project, HKS Hospitality Group.
A Vision Realized
Carlos Jimenez of Carlos Jimenez Studio was the architect on the project. He worked side-by-side with the designers at HKS Hospitality Group. For Carlos, it is the views from the hotel that most elate him. “Because of the inherited original shape, the rooms have to be very long, like a telescope, and the window is the only view, so you have 55 views that are all different. Each one is very special and unique as you move throughout the floors,” shared Carlos.
Carlos spoke on the challenges of such a unique project. “Mr. Crowley and myself worked very intensely in the beginning to try and see how we could build 50 or 60 rooms on top of the existing building. When we realized it was going to be a dominant structure in town, our intention and desire was to not make it a building that would overwhelm the scale of everything,” Carlos revealed.
Most visitors can attest to the successful achievement of that challenge. Carlos himself is quite happy with the end result. “Lots of hotels tend to operate on different agendas. Here it’s a combination; it’s more conceptual. It’s not replicating or trying to do anything highly unique, but it’s taking full advantage of this marvelous circumstance, which is to have an existing building as a base for putting these 55 rooms above,” he said.
Mary Alice, helmed the interior design vision alongside Senior Designer, Adele Cuartelon. Mary considers herself lucky to have spent some time in Marfa previously. “It was important to create something there that was appropriate to the place and serve the needs of broad travelers who come to Marfa for different reasons. There’s a diverse population that visits, and historically, they haven’t had much of an offering of hotels and accommodations,” she shared.
The goal in developing the aesthetic of the interior, was to make it a place for all to enjoy. Mary admits that, “it took on a life of its own as more and more people were added, leaders in the industry – artists, manufacturers, designers, and creative directors, which has lent the project a wonderful kind of evolution that’s perfectly appropriate to Marfa and seems almost accidental in nature.”
Some of the design elements were indeed accidental. For example, they unearthed some stunning blue, black, and white veined marble on the façade at the base of the building during construction. Later, they repurposed this for the bar. “There’s kind of a really great sensibility about re-use. It creates a sense of economy and appropriateness for the place,” Mary explained.
The original intention was to strip the building down to its essence and take away all of the superfluous elements. They used the column grid that was irregular. Designers kept those core, very sculptural, design elements as the foundation for the rest of the hotel’s design.
The hotel’s in-house restaurant LaVenture serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. It features European as well as Texas-inspired cuisine made with seasonal ingredients. This can be difficult to find in West Texas, where eating fresh seafood is something of a novelty.
For many locals and visitors to the hotel, Laventure is the place to go for a special dinner out. “We have a lot of repeat guests… ranchers, the mayor. It’s the place to come in and have a steak, pork chops, and some nice wine. It’s their dress up place, but we try to keep it from being too fancy,” Chef Allison shared.
Breakfast may be straightforward, with items like yogurt parfait made with house-made granola, but it is entirely fresh and delicious. Alternatively, dinner is when the kitchen gets a chance to stretch their wings. Menu items include dishes such as hand-rolled garganellli pasta with lamb sausage and crispy river trout with a pomme puree and brown butter.
The Marfa Book Company, a nationally-renowned bookstore that was in the hotel before it was renovated, is still located inside. It offers an expansive variety of books from art to literature, as well as highly-curated gifts and specialty items. They made the space with re-used industrial materials and fixtures, such as bookshelves, made by local artists.
Across the street, there is a swimming pool and outdoor bar and grill for hotel guests to enjoy. The hotel commonly uses the space, called Saint George Hall, as an event space for weddings and concerts. With arts, film, and music already being such a big part of what makes this town tick, Hotel Saint George seems to be just the next in the obvious evolution of a small town with unstoppable aspirations.