This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Guest Ranch Redefined.”
A piece of land can be the glue that keeps the family together,” says 68-year-old Frede Edgerton as he surveys the newly opened Contigo Ranch from the top of a hill that rises more than one hundred feet above neighboring Enchanted Rock. The retreat’s namesake is his family’s former ranch, a four-thousand-acre spread near Falfurrias, once part of the storied King Ranch, that Frede and his wife, Claudia, transformed into a thriving hunting operation that hosted people from around the world. Over the course of thirty years the Edgertons became known for lively barbecues, pig roasts, horseshoes tournaments, and the occasional pachanga. The new Contigo, tucked under the caprock in a landscape of yuccas, prickly pear, granjeno, and sage, is a wholly different kind of place, a Hill Country haven that supplants hunting (at least for now) with high design and little to do but enjoy the surroundings.
Though the original ranch had been in the family for generations, the Edgertons decided in 2014 that it was time to sell it and move to the Hill Country, closer to where their children live. (If the name Contigo—“with you” in Spanish—sounds familiar, it’s because the Edgertons’ son, Ben, runs a popular Austin restaurant under that moniker.) Frede sized up more than a hundred properties before coming across this rambling spread, twenty minutes outside Fredericksburg.
Frede saw the proximity to their loved ones as an opportunity to collaborate. The Edgertons’ daughter, Dee Brosnan, is married to a certified arborist, Tim Brosnan. Ben’s wife, Ann, is an accomplished interior decorator. Frede and Claudia could not only make a home but reimagine the kind of guest ranch experience they would offer.
Though the location of their new ranch was ideal, the existing buildings were a different story. Toward the center of the property, a row of dilapidated structures had facades that recalled Dodge City storefronts. Though they seemed beyond repair, it was obvious to Frede that they could become guest quarters that would rival the landscape in their appeal. Nearby was a much larger building, an Old West–style saloon; it would be reinvented as an event space, where groups could gather for special occasions.
The family soon developed a site plan with Austin-based husband-and-wife architects Kevin Stewart and Liz Rau, of Design Hound, who viewed the crumbling edifices with a fresh eye. “We wanted to respect the architecture, so we removed the facades to expose the bones,” Kevin explains. The result is a row of asymmetrical farmhouse-style cottages that hang together visually thanks to modern all-white exteriors and interconnected porches.
The 3,400-plus-square-foot Event Hall, nestled among hundred-year-old oak trees, is now skirted by covered patios. Once dark and cavernous—filled with fur pelts, faux-wood floors, and gun-shaped door handles—today the space basks in sunlight, with a white palette and white-oak-plank floors. Ann took design inspiration from the King Ranch as well as a modern Belgian aesthetic. The warm, spare composition pays homage to the ranch’s past and provides a calming refuge. There’s no restaurant on the property, but, in a twist on the B&B formula, guests receive baskets of breakfast goodies (all fresh from Austin’s Contigo eatery) delivered to their porches each morning.
In the end, what the Edgerton family has created is an elevated experience in the outdoors, a serene getaway that feels like staying in a friend’s stylish guest house—or, more accurately, an entire village of stylish guest houses that can be rented individually or all together. There’s really nothing like it in the vicinity. The place will continue to evolve, from the guest experience and amenities to the land itself.
On most days, you can find the Edgerton patriarch out working the land. “You have to work on it until you get it to a certain place,” he explains, “then you let nature take its course.”
Cottages from $155; event space rental from $6,800. contigoranch.com.