For planners looking to get away from cookie-cutter meeting spaces, these historic hotels across Texas offer one-of-a-kind charm. Having served as social centers in their respective cities for decades, these resorts have been lovingly restored to offer modern amenities while staying true to their early 20th-century heritage.
Hotel Galvez & Spa, Galveston
When Hotel Galvez opened in 1911, the price of a room per night was just $2 (the hotel cost $1 million at the time to build).
Hotel Galalvez & Spa is the only historic beachfront hotel on the Gulf Coast. It’s also the only hotel with an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico, says Christine Hopkins, director of communications at both The Tremont House and The Hotel Galvez & Spa in Galveston.
Construction of Hotel Galvez began after the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which killed between 6,000 and 8,000 people. The hotel opened after the construction of a 17-foot seawall and was part of the revitalization of the city of Galveston as a tourist destination.
Through its long history, the hotel has served as a temporary White House for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was used as a Coast Guard facility for two years during World War II. Celebrities like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra have stayed there.
The hotel also has its own ghost story. Legend has it that a woman was staying in room 501 when she learned that her fiance’s ship had sunk and subsequently committed suicide. The woman now reportedly haunts the halls and is featured during the hotel’s ghost tours. Guests can learn more in the Hall of History on the lower level or through a 25-minute audio history tour offered through the hotel’s app.
In 1993, Hotel Galvez was purchased by Mitchell Historic Properties, which gave the hotel a $20 million upgrade. Since then, it has undergone several renovations. The Spa at the Hotel Galvez was built in 2008. The hotel also had an $11 million renovation before its centennial in 2011. The bathrooms were recently updated with new showers, surround fixtures and tile floors, along with paint, artwork and new bedding.
The Hotel Galvez offers more than 13,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and 12,000 square feet of outdoor event space and can accommodate 500 guests for events using both.
There are three outdoor spaces, including the Centennial Green, which was added in 2011, and front lawn. The Music Hall is the largest indoor space at 4,550 feet. It can accommodate up to 500 people and offers high ceilings, natural light and views of the Gulf. The 2,500-square-foot Terrace Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 250 people, is connected to the Veranda, another 2,500-square-foot space that also offers an unobstructed view of the Gulf.
The Hotel Galvez is known nationally for its brunch, Hopkins, says, which was voted as one of the top 100 brunches in the country by OpenTable. The Galvez Bar & Grill offers casual seafood fare and Texas steaks. There’s also a swim-up pool bar and grill, and catering is offered for events and meetings on-site.
Hotel Settles, Big Spring
When Hotel Settles opened in Big Spring in 1930, it was the tallest building between El Paso and Fort Worth. The solid concrete, 15-story structure included 150 rooms, a pharmacy and a café.
The hotel was built by William R. and Lillian Settles after oil was discovered on their ranch. However, the Settles family only owned it for two years; it was sold during the Great Depression after their oil revenues decreased.
The ownership switched over the following decades until present owner Brint Ryan purchased the hotel in 2006. Over this time, celebrities like Lawrence Welk, President Herbert Hoover and Elvis Presley visited the Settles Grill, the hotel’s café. Then, in 1982, Hotel Settles closed following an oil bust in West Texas and fell into disrepair. Local support for the building raised money to replace most of its broken windows in the 1990s.
However, the building wasn’t in use until 2006, when the hotel was purchased by G. Brint Ryan, a Big Spring native who invested $30 million in its renovation. The hotel reopened on Dec. 28, 2012.
The hotel’s status as a social hub in Big Spring has given it a special place in the hearts of the community, says Andrea Barr, general manager at Hotel Settles. “We have groups that may have had their prom or senior dance or banquet here in the 1950s or 1960s who are then coming back for class reunions and getting together with their classmates and sharing stories,” Barr says.
Many guests comment that stepping into the hotel is like stepping back in time, Barr says. “It’s a jewel of a bygone era,” she says. “When you walk into the lobby, you feel the historic nature from the art deco architecture even though the furnishings are new.”
On the heritage floor, 13 rooms retain their original 1930s footprint with pedestal-style fixtures and vintage art deco tile. The rest of the rooms in the hotel have a modern design and furnishings, though in keeping with the 1930s art deco era.
The more-than 15,000 square feet of meeting space is located on the ground and mezzanine levels.
The Pavilion, which can accommodate about 60 guests, is a space overlooking the pool area, gardens and fountains. The Pavilion has marble floors and four sets of French doors, two of which open onto a patio.
The Judge’s Chamber is a fun, funky space located on the basement level. It can accommodate up to 20 people and features soft seating, a cigar smoke evacuation system and shuffleboard and poker tables.
The Grand Ballroom has been restored to its 1930s grandeur. The 2,700-square-foot space can accommodate up to 200 guests.
The Texas & Pacific Meeting Room and the Cosden Meeting Room have a more traditional design and can accommodate 50 guests in each.
Barr says Hotel Settles offers a unique meeting space especially convenient for companies with offices in West Texas. Big Spring is located about half-way between El Paso and Forth Worth and 40 miles east of the Permian Basin.
“Anytime you’re looking for a place to meet for a business or conference, if you have offices in this region of Texas, no one has to travel too far,” Barr says. “It’s truly a really unique experience here, like nothing around.”
The Lancaster, Houston
The Lancaster Hotel, originally named The Auditorium Hotel, was built in 1926 by Michele DeGeorge, a Houston investor and Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1882. The building fittingly features Italian Renaissance detailing on its upper floors.
Located across the street from then-City Auditorium (now Jones Hall), The Lancaster was an important site during the birth of the Houston Theater District. The hotel was renamed to The Lancaster in 1983 and was recognized as a Texas Historical Landmark in 1984.
The Lancaster is the longest continually operated hotel in Houston and is currently operated by the fourth generation of DeGeorge’s family, who keep the history of the hotel alive by sharing with guests some of its most interesting stories. (Gene Autry once rode a horse down into the hotel’s basement. The basement is also the sight where theater performers would perform for troops during World War II.).
“It’s a very quirky experience that people wouldn’t get elsewhere,” says Lexi Edwards, corporate sales manager at The Lancaster.
In time for the hotel’s 90th anniversary, it recently underwent an $11 million total renovation of its interior and exterior, which was completed last fall.
The hotel is mostly used for room blocks by groups, though it also offers a boardroom that can accommodate up to 20 people on its mezzanine level. Groups typically get access to the entire mezzanine level when they rent out the space.
Guests can enjoy a daily breakfast and nightly hosted wine hour (the wine hour is offered only on weeknights). The full-service restaurant, The Bistro at The Lancaster, is a popular spot for drinks and dinner before or after a show. Its motto is “sophisticated dining kept simple,” and its crab cakes are a signature dish. Guests can also use a luxury shuttle to travel within a three-mile radius of the hotel.
Edwards says she prides herself most on The Lancaster’s service.
“We are a small boutique hotel, and in my opinion our service is unlike any other,” Edwards says. “We’re the only independently owned hotel in downtown Houston, so we can basically run the hotel the way it needs to be run. We’re constantly evolving our service depending on our guests’ needs.”
The Tremont House, Galveston
The Tremont House name has a long history in Galveston. The first property to bear that name was built in 1839, the same year that Galveston was founded. At the time, the two-story building was one of the grandest hotels in Texas. Six American presidents (either future or sitting) spent time there, and the hotel was used by Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War. The building was then lost in a fire in 1865.
The second Tremont House was built in 1872 and continued to be a place to host dignitaries. The hotel was condemned and demolished in 1928 following the start of the Great Depression.
Decades later, George and Cynthia Mitchell, both leaders in transforming Galveston’s downtown into the Strand National Historic Landmark District, acquired the Leon & H. Blum Building in 1981 and renovated the space to become the third iteration of The Tremont House. The building was constructed in 1879 as a dry goods warehouse and, following its renovation, opened as the first major hotel in downtown Galveston in 1985.
Mitchell Historic Properties currently operates a fourth of the buildings in the historic district, says Hopkins.
“They felt it was important to honor [The Tremont House] heritage and that name in Galveston,” Hopkins says.
The Tremont House offers 119 rooms and feels more like a boutique hotel, she says. The primary colors are black and white, there’s Calcutta marble on the floor and a huge atrium in the lobby. The rooms have high ceilings, which helped to cool the building before air conditioning.
Along with meeting space in The Tremont House building, planners can use meeting space in another historic building across the street. The 8,000-square-foot Tremont Ballroom is located on the second floor and can be divided into two spaces and offers the use of an outdoor balcony. Within The Tremont House, meeting space ranges from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell boardroom, which can seat up to 18 people, to the Sam Houston Ballroom, which features floor-to-ceiling windows and can accommodate up to 300 guests.
The meeting rooms have exposed brick walls and a lot of natural light. With The Tremont House’s downtown location, guests can easily walk to shops, restaurants and galleries in the Strand National Historic Landmark District, Hopkins said.
The hotel offers two bars in the lobby and features the only rooftop bar in Galveston. The rooftop bar was recently expanded to offer additional seating (the bar can seat 70) and offers views of downtown Galveston and the harbor. Although not available for private event rentals, it is a popular spot for groups to gather.
The Tremont House has started construction on new extended stay options in another historic property nearby, the Berlocher Building. The property will offer one- to two-bedroom accommodations, each with a kitchen, living and dining space. The rooms will become available to guests late this year.
Larger groups can book guests into the Harper House hotel nearby, which includes 42 rooms.
Hopkins says the city of Galveston is easy to navigate and to get to. The island of Galveston is a 45-minute drive to Houston Hobby Airport and a 75-minute drive to Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“It’s really a great town,” Hopkins says. “There’s a lot of history here, and a lot of historic architecture. It’s really easy to get around, and guests are always pleasantly surprised at how beautiful an island it is.”