“It’s really an extension of their overall aesthetic, the attention to detail,” said Sandra Hadley, the hotel’s general manager. “You will know that their stamp has arrived.”
For devoted viewers of “Fixer Upper” and the Magnolia Network, Waco is their El Dorado, a place of middle-class architecture where copper and iron are considered precious metals. The contract designer duo renovated nearly 100 Waco homes for their hit show, which debuted in 2013 and ran for five seasons. Over the years, they’ve gone beyond residential, turning two abandoned mills into Magnolia Market in Silos, a retail space with a coffee shop and bakery, and the former Elite Cafe at Magnolia Table, a breakfast and lunch joint. gift shop. On Wednesday night, the Magnolia Network will air the first episode of the six-part series, “Fixer Upper: The Hotel,” which chronicles the rise of Hotel 1928. The show will also be available to stream on Max and Discovery Plus.
So far, their residential projects are very simple. The Gaineses offer two short-term rentals, Hillcrest Estate, a 1903 home that sleeps twelve, and Hillcrest Cottage, a one-bedroom cottage.
Waco, Tex., needs fixing. Fortunately, Chip and Joanna Gaines had the tools.
“There’s one boutique hotel called Hotel Pivovar that’s located behind the silos,” Hadley said of the non-Gaines properties that occupy the Czech brewery. “I also feel that this market has been filled with many Airbnb people because there is a lack of hotels here.”
To withdraw Hotel 1928, they teamed up with Adventurous Journeys “AJ” Capital Partners, a real estate investment manager who owns Graduate Hotels, a local theme chain based in college towns in the United States and the United Kingdom.
“We want to restore this building to its original state. (It is) the biggest, the most complex. . . project we’ve ever done in our entire career — three stories, 53,000 square feet, 33 guest rooms, two restaurants, a library, a rooftop terrace,” Chip said in the show’s trailer.
The hotel fulfills one of the couple’s founding goals: reviving old places. Originally this building was the Grand Karem Shrine Building, a magnificent gathering place for Freemason organizations that was built 95 years ago. Before the Gaineses bought it in 2018, it was vacant. During the hotel’s sold-out opening weekend, it was full of life.
“The hotel creates a sense of community, and that’s what Silos does,” Hadley said. “They bring everyone together.”
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As a tribute to the hotel’s Roaring Twenties past, the Gaineses created an F. Scott Fitzgerald rather than Farmer Brown. For example, they gave up their 15 shades of neutral for stunning colors like inky black, blue and deep blue. Joanna ordered custom-made furniture that replicates the original pieces, and vintage photos depicting Waco’s history — the city is the birthplace of Dr. Pepper and the first state building — adorn the walls.
“It doesn’t feel like you can’t touch anything, but it’s like you’re stepping back in time,” Hadley said. “You can go see Waco at different times.”
Joanna uses books as decoration. But in the two-story library, housed in a coal warehouse, the titles are for reading. The collection is from Booked Up, an Archer City, Tex., bookstore founded by author Larry McMurtry. Chip, who has international ties to Archer City, bought the entire lot after McMurtry’s death in 2021. Bookworms can peek under the covers to see what the Pulitzer Prize-winning owner has been charging customers — $10 to thousands of dollars, according to Hadley.
Visitors are encouraged to come down even if they don’t sleep overnight. (Rates start at $375 a night, plus taxes; there’s still availability through the end of the year through 2024.) All public areas are open, including Bertie’s on the Rooftop, which has an outdoor terrace with views of the Silos; the Brasserie at Hotel 1928, a Southern cuisine restaurant that can seat up to 300 people; and the Cafe, which serves coffee and baked goods during the day and wine and beer at night. Hadley said that unlike the Magnolia Table, which featured Jo’s buttermilk biscuits and French toast, the hotel’s menus were shaped but not decided by the home chef.
“Joanna provided feedback, guidance and direction on some of the menu items, but because of the scale, it’s a little different compared to making something at home,” he said.
Sara McDaniel has been following the Gaineses since their early years, when they ran the Little Shop at Bosque, the original Magnolia Market. The Louisiana native and renovation buff has visited Waco several times, looking for ideas and inspiration. Like his mentors, he is trying to improve his hometown of Minden, La., through his projects, which include the Spanish Court Villas, a collection of houses he rescued from decay and neglect. Eight units are available for short stays.
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“Chip and Joanna are always trying to make Waco better,” said McDaniel, whose show, Minden’s “In With the Old: Mysterious Yellow House,” airs the same night as “The Hotel.” “They are trying to bring visitors inside. They create information and a destination. It makes sense to add a hotel to their portfolio.”
Hotel 1928 is not part of the same category as other celebrity hotels. Robert De Niro (Nobu Hotels), Francis Ford Coppola (luxurious properties in Italy, Belize, Argentina and Guatemala) and Richard Gere (Bedford Post Inn in New York’s Westchester County) get top billing for their hotels, although it seems the marquee lights more than action.
Chekitan Dev, a marketing professor at Cornell University’s Nolan School of Hotel Administration, said a sustainable model would recommend a certain lifestyle, like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. Visitors want to eat cheeseburgers in paradise, or indulge in home decorating ideas to create a sanctuary like a farm without the hard work.
In 2017, Sherri Betz packed up her dog and drove more than 1,750 miles from California to Waco, racing against the clock to arrive before Sunday, Magnolia Market’s day off. “I was almost sad because I thought I wouldn’t see it, so I didn’t sleep,” said Betz, who arrived at noon on Saturday.
A physical therapist filled her car with home decor items for her new home in northeast Louisiana. He returned to Waco many times, sometimes alone, with his mother. He stayed at Hillcrest Cottage.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was a wonderful place to live.”
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Betz avoids Waco during busy seasons, such as holidays, and hot months. He had no immediate plans to visit, but the night before the opening of Hotel 1928, he suddenly felt the urge to take a five-hour trip.
“I think I should go to the grand opening,” she said, not kidding at all. “I have to get in the car tomorrow and drive there.”