Considering Austin’s rich cultural history, Hotel Magdalena sits on a sacred site. It was home to the hugely popular Terrace Motor Hotel in the Fifties; in the Seventies, the Austin Opry House (after Willie Nelson purchased the property), hosting the likes of Muddy Waters, Ike & Tina Turner, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, The Eagles, and more. Now, the South Congress property lives to see a new day.
“The story of the hotel is the story of Austin–of live music, of Willie and his friends,” says Bunkhouse Group chief executive officer, Amar Lalvani, “Of the late 1960s through the 1970s that created the character of Austin we all fell in love with. The free love counterculture mixed with Texan sensibility. The outdoors, the relishing of hot summers by finding refuge in the natural swimming holes, rivers, and creeks.”
Located on Music Lane, the 89-room hotel taps this Seventies Texan lakeside ethos in its design. Constructed from prefabricated timber panels, the architects, from San Antonio-based firm Lake Flato, created four treehouse-like structures connected by several walkways and courtyards. Hotel Magdalena also highlights sustainability in its construction—it’s the first hotel in North America made from mass timber, which is praised for such qualities.
“The big difference from the immediately neighboring new buildings such as the Soho House on South Congress is that the Magdalena is not a monolithic block. It’s organic. A collection of mass timber buildings that surround a private outdoor oasis that is informed by rather than fighting the topography and natural elements,” says Lalvani, “We focused a lot on the indoor and outdoor flow using landscaping and shading to manage the heat. Of course the fact you can always be barefoot on property and take a dip helps too.”
The rooms themselves are bright and airy with splashes of colorful Spanish tiles. Outfitted in Fifties-esque walnut furniture similar to that from designers like Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, the guest rooms also make subtle nods to the Seventies with accents like record players, vintage vinyls, and imagery from music photographer Scott Newton.
The property also offers a full-service restaurant, Summer House on Music Lane—headed by chef Jeffrey Hundelt, formerly of Austin’s Launderette and Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon—and event space. “We found a great picture from the opening year of the Terrace Motor Hotel that shows a great ceiling lattice detail,” says Bunkhouse design director Tenaya Hills, “which we replicated into Douglas Fir in the event space and the restaurant.”
In the midst of it all sits a swimming pool inspired by the nearby Barton Springs, a recreational watering hole filled only with water from natural springs—perhaps one of the more obvious takeaways from the property’s historical footprint.