This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “College Station Has a Hotel Moment.”
A year ago, College Station saw the opening of its first boutique hotel, Cavalry Court, a white, modern farmhouse–style lodge that provided a welcome alternative to the less-charming chain hotels that had long been the staples in town. In the months since, a bona fide boutique-hotel scene has sprouted here.
The George, a stately English-inspired hotel with Texas touches, opened this summer next door to Cavalry Court (the two belong to the same hotel group, Houston-based Valencia, which built its reputation with San Antonio’s Hotel Valencia Riverwalk). And just a few miles away, in Bryan, the Stella Hotel opened in April of this year with, among other draws, a popular craft cocktail bar and an adjoining five-acre lake and outdoor concert venue. It’s all a new style for Aggieland, but each place manages to find ways to honor the area’s rich traditions.
The 141-room Cavalry Court (cavalrycourt.com) owes its look and feel to Houston-based Rottet Studio, which has designed plush hotels around the country, including the Surrey, in New York. Here, clever design details, like not-quite-Army-green doors, pay tribute to Texas A&M’s military history without feeling kitschy. Visitors enter through a brick lobby building, where the resident Australian shepherd, Jack, hangs out by the front desk (it’s a pet-friendly property). Just beyond the high arched windows, private cabanas line the pool deck, while an outdoor living area beckons with a metal Ping-Pong table, a shuffleboard court, a large grill, and fire pits (s’mores kits are available upon request). Four white motel-style buildings surround the courtyard, housing spacious guest rooms with retro details like Smeg refrigerators and claw-footed tubs. Grab a cocktail and take a seat on one of the sofas next to the fireplace at Canteen, the bar and restaurant on the property. Or order the pork belly sliders and sit at one of the picnic tables under the twinkly lights of the outdoor dining area.
One of the first things you see as you enter the lobby of the George (thegeorgetexas.com) is a thirty-by-forty-foot installation of 10,000 books that have been color-coded and arranged in the shape of a Texas flag. The artist, Houstonian Thedra Cullar-Ledford, was inspired by all the flags painted on barn roofs in the Brazos Valley. Clubby design elements with similarly whimsical Texas tweaks are scattered throughout the hotel. The open lobby, framed by steel-and-glass doors, mixes chesterfield sofas and homey plaid accents, a fusion that the owners deem “English elegance and Southern tradition.” A full-service restaurant named Poppy (for President George H. W. Bush) opens this month, and guests can drop in for a nightcap at 1791, a bar named for the Whiskey Rebellion tax protest of that year. There isn’t much maroon in sight, except for a few metal chairs by the pool, but small nods to the university that’s within walking distance include a wall bedecked with vintage cowboy boots imprinted with the A&M logo.
There’s a lot of hype for the bright, clean-lined hotel that anchors the Lake Walk Town Center, an ambitious Bryan development made up of 90,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and another 80,000 square feet of office space. So while the Stella (thestellahotel.com) might seem as if it’s in the middle of nowhere until the rest of the project is finished, that doesn’t stop crowds of locals and visitors from sidling up at the bar, Hershel’s—named for Hershel Burgess, the 1929 A&M grad who once owned this land—swimming in one of the two pools, or perusing goods at the weekly on-site artisans’ and farmers’ market. A coffee shop, P.O.V., uses beans from San Antonio’s Merit Roasting Company, and the Campfire restaurant invites guests to linger at the fire pit on its porch.