Albion Bed and Breakfast has added a new dimension to the historic community of Lockhart. Once a staging area for cattle herds preparing for the walk up the Chisholm Trail to the railheads in Kansas, in recent years Lockhart has been in competition for the title of barbecue capital of Texas. Now it is also the home of luxury accommodations.
In 1997, Wendy and Ray Ramsey opened the five-bedroom bed and breakfast in a 100-year-old, two-story, Neoclassical-style house. Six blocks west of the Caldwell County courthouse, the inn is within walking distance of some of the best barbecue in the state.
When the Ramseys first saw the house in 1992, it looked like a mansion from a Hitchcock movie. The woman who was living in the house was basically living in two rooms of the 4,400-square-foot house, Wendy said. Pigeons were living in the attic and there was a dead bird in an upstairs bedroom.
The Ramseys were living in Dallas at the time - he is an occupational therapist and she is a child therapist - when friends spotted the house and recommended they check it out.
The real estate agent who showed them the house said, "I know what you're thinking."
"I thought, `No you don't,' because no one could imagine the horrible thoughts I was having," Wendy says with a laugh. The old house was really "grody" on the inside, she says, with rotting wood and water damage in nearly every room.
To look at it now, you would never know that the elegant white house was once close to either falling down or being torn down. "I know it sounds kinda' corny, but the house kind of talked to us," Wendy said. They immediately made an offer for the house and put their house in Dallas on the market. Their house sold in four days; the negotiations on the Lockhart house took four months. In January 1993, for better or worse, the Ramseys got their antique mansion.
"The first thing we did was close all the holes, then started with the necessities like air conditioning, plumbing and rewiring the whole house," Wendy said. The upper and lower wrap-around porches were removed and rebuilt. Ray and Wendy applied 200 gallons of paint and 450 rolls of wallpaper to the house.
The house was built by Albion Chew, a land developer and businessman. He also owned the local lumberyard, so everything that went into the house was of top quality.
Heart pine was used throughout. The two-story fluted columns that grace the entry porch are made of cypress and topped with Ionic capitals. There are seven fireplaces and parquet floors framed in decorative molding.
Four years after the remodeling began, the Ramseys hosted their first guests in May 1997. "We love it," Wendy says of their first year in the business, "it really is fun meeting people we would not meet otherwise."
"I don't know what I expected, but it is really hard work running a bed and breakfast," Wendy says. After several years of working as a therapist, the B&B is a different kind of challenge.
The Ramseys live in the first floor of the house and rent out the five rooms upstairs. Two of the rooms have private access to the upstairs porch, but each room can get outside either by a hall door or "by opening up a window."
"Breakfast is not gourmet, it's hearty," Wendy says, "we only fix recognizable foods." The morning menu often includes fruits, pastries, homemade bread, meat, and eggs. Biscuits and gravy are a favorite item.
Rooms rent for $75-90, depending on what night and which room. The Albion B&B also has a reception room that can accommodate about 150 people standing or about 500 people if you use the porches and the one-acre yard.
The Albion Bed and Breakfast is at 604 W. San Antonio. For information or reservations, call 512/376-6775 or http://www.austin360.com/ads/albion.
For barbecue, check out the three titans of smoked meat in Lockhart:
Kreuz Market, 602 S. Commerce, doesn't offer plates, potato salad, or sauce, but they just might have the sweetest brisket found in carnivore land. This place is for the dedicated barbecue lover. Open Mon-Fri, 7am-6pm. 512/398-2361.
Black's Barbecue, 215 N. Main, is more of a family-style joint with lots of side dishes and a great cobbler. Open eight days a week, 10am-7:30pm and "sometimes 'til 8." 512/398-2712.
Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Q, 1323 S. Colorado (US183), is on the highway on the southern edge of town and offers a great selection of foods cafeteria-style. Open Sunday-Thursday, 8am-8pm, and Friday-Saturday, 8am-9pm. 512/398-6027.
For a list of other things to do in Lockhart, call the chamber of commerce at 512/398-2818.
Coming up this weekend...
Hug-In in Luckenbach celebrates the season of love with fun and silliness, Feb. 14. 210/997-3224.
Market Trail in the country south of San Antonio strings the little towns together with a weekend of special events including tours of the old brick factory in D'Hannis and the Big Foot Wallace Museum in Big Foot. 830/665-2419.
Chili and Cobbler Supper at the community center in Georgetown's San Gabriel Park raises money for scholarships, $5; Feb. 19, 5-7pm.
Murder Mystery Weekend at the historic Prince Solms Inn in New Braunfels promises lots of fun and excitement, Feb. 20-22. 800/625-9169.
Artist Competition conducted by Messina Hof Wine Cellars in Bryan is looking for art with a Cowboy/Texas Art theme to grace this year's vintages. Deadline Mar. 20. 409/778-9463.
Czech Heritage Calendars are one-of-kind gifts with special interest to Texas Czechs; $5. 800/524-7264.