Austin is consistently ranked as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. High-rises have mushroomed, and housing prices have skyrocketed, yet enclaves dedicated to preserving the city’s cherished slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” are alive and well. Quirky antique stores sit adjacent to upscale boutiques, country dance halls are overshadowed by residential towers, and Eeyore’s Birthday Party, an idiosyncratic festival founded in the early 1960s and named after one of the characters in the Winnie the Pooh children’s stories, continues to draw locals, alongside the more elaborate and equally beloved Austin City Limits and South by Southwest music festivals.
Commodore Perry Estate
New hotels have burgeoned in tandem with Austin’s growth, yet they have been aimed primarily at young travelers in the high-tech and entertainment sectors of the local economy. The bedrooms tend to be small, the dining areas crowded and noisy, and the staff, often students at the University of Texas, well-meaning but in need of training. I have been waiting for a property of distinction to arrive on the scene. My wish appeared to have come true last June with the much-anticipated debut of the Commodore Perry Estate, the first urban property from the Auberge Resorts Collection. But due to the pandemic, it is only recently that I have finally been able to pay the hotel a visit.
Perched on a knoll and surrounded by a 10-acre estate, the Perry mansion is a 10,800-square-foot Italianate structure that dates from 1928, the height of the Jazz Age. It was built for cotton shipping tycoon Edgar Perry, nicknamed “Commodore” by his friends after his boat washed away during a flood on Lake Austin. He and his wife, Lutie, were known for hosting lavish Gatsby-esque parties. In 1944, Perry sold the house, as it was, in his opinion, “too big to live in.”