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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

The Antlers Hotel in Kingsland

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

When the Antlers Hotel in Kingsland threw open its doors in 1901, the resort featured gas lights, running water, telephones and every other modern convenience, except electricity, which, like flush toilets and automobiles, the builders considered a passing fad.

The idea for the Antlers began in the 1890s when the Austin and Northwestern Railway extended its line from Burnet to Llano. Along that line the company built a depot in the small town of Kingsland at the confluence of the Colorado and Llano Rivers.

Railroad employees and train travelers soon learned what locals had always known. There was a rugged natural beauty unique to this part of the Hill Country. Humans had been drawn to this place, where 2 great rivers come together, since prehistoric times.

A part of the magic of the Llano country is the sharp contrast between the harsh landscape and the sparkling waters of the Colorado and its tributaries. The reflection of boulder-strewn hills in the shimmering pools of the Llano has mesmerized travelers for centuries.

To take advantage of the beauty and the mystery of Kingsland, the railroad built a hotel across the street from the depot. The builders named the hotel after the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado, completed just a few years earlier.

Kingsland TX - Antlers Hotel
Antlers Hotel
Photo by Michael Barr, December 2020

The Antlers in Kingsland had 11 guest rooms, kitchen, dining room, game room, bar and bath. During the busy season capacity could be stretched by putting cots and hammocks on the veranda.

Built in the Victorian style, The Antlers is a two-story wooden building, symmetrical in front, with massive covered porches as wide as a highway. The building is oriented to capture the breeze on warm summer days. It has 12 foot ceilings and in the days before air-conditioning used a system of doors, windows and transom windows to move the inside air around.

Captain A. N. Leitnaker, president of the Austin and Northwestern Railway, described the Antlers as "a two-story hotel or outing lodge, with a frontage of 100 feet, surrounded by broad verandas, lawns, flowers, trees and fountains affording an uninterrupted view of the Llano country scenery."

"We also have a pretty lake, 5 miles in length. This artificial lake is formed by a lock thrown across the Colorado. The fishing above and below is fast and exciting."

Kingsland TX - Riverside Park, lake and Antlers Hotel
The park by the lake
Photo by Michael Barr, December 2020

"A special feature is Riverside Park which fronts on the lake. The park is connected to The Antlers by telephone for the convenience of campers who may not establish a commissary so that they may order meals or lunches at any time having them sent to the park or in readiness when they reach the hotel." The Antlers was doing takeout before takeout was fashionable.

Kingsland TX - Antlers Hotel depot
Antlers Depot
Photo by Michael Barr, December 2020

The hotel soon was a favorite of cattlemen and a regular stop for drummers (salesmen who got the attention of buyers by literally beating on drums). To encourage tourists, and to drum up business for the hotel, the railroad ran special excursion trains from Austin to Kingsland. And the railroad made it easy. A roundtrip ticket cost $1.50.

Business was brisk, in the beginning, until the automobile began eroding train travel. By 1920 the occupancy rate at The Antlers dropped significantly. Then in 1922 a fire ravaged Kingsland. The depot across the street burned to the ground. While The Antlers Hotel survived, it never again regained the level of popularity it once had. Lonely rooms and the great verandas sat vacant for weeks at a time.

In 1923 the Barrow family Of Austin bought The Antlers and used it, off and on for the next 70 years, as a private family retreat. It was a boarding house for a time in the 1950s. Boarders could rent a "warmly heated room" for $6 a week.

Then in 1993 new owners bought the tired old hotel, and after a 3-year facelift, The Antlers threw open its doors again. Today travelers looking for a quiet place to take in some of the finest scenery the Hill Country has to offer can rent a room at The Antlers in Kingsland, electricity and flush toilets included.

Kingsland TX - Antlers Hotel Cafe
The building that houses the Grand Central Cafe and Club Car Lounge was moved from Round Rock. A scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed there.
Photo by Michael Barr, December 2020

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" January 15, 2021 Column


Sources:

"Antlers Hotel Is Kingsland Resort," Llano News, May 31, 1962
"Antlers Hotel Has Been Opened," Llano News, June 2, 1914.
History of the Antlers Hotel Kingsland, Texas. Available at the hotel.



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