Places to Stay

Minimalism & Mystery: Experience the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, Texas

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As we approach the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, Texas, a pop-up thunderstorm wanders over the late-summer landscape. Upon arriving, the squared-off exterior looks somewhat out of place, compared to the elaborate Presidio County courthouse and the iconic Paisano Hotel. On a little reflection, however, it fits perfectly. Marfa’s Hotel Saint George, it turns out, is just right for the high desert environment and the bright vein of modern art that runs through this town. It echoes the mock-Prada store and the boxy aluminum and concrete creations of Donald Judd, set out in the desert. It combines minimalism and mystery, not unlike the famous Marfa lights.

Like the town, the hotel reveals bits of its past, if you know where to look. In 1886, three years after the railroad- and water-stop of a town was founded, the original two-story Hotel Saint George was completed. It served its last guest in 1929. Eventually converted to a bookstore, its first floor (the Marfa Book Company) became a cultural draw for residents and tourists alike.

Its past continues to define the present, as the new Saint George was built on the footprint of the old hotel, using many repurposed materials (wood, brick, metal, concrete) from the old structure. The bookstore remained on the first floor, reducing its space but not its status as a literary gathering spot.

Minimalism & Mystery: Experience the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, Texas

Photo: John Spaulding.

The perfect place to refresh body and spirit after a long drive in west Texas (there are no other kinds of drives there) is the hotel’s LaVenture Restaurant. Choosing from a select gourmet menu, a Texan or more far-flung tourist can find multiple food and drink temptations. Try the seared scallops or the on-trend cocktails made from sotol, a west Texas plant beginning to compete with its tequila-source cousin, the agave.

Take a comfortable seat in the lobby bar, where you’ll see visitors in every style from Santa Fe chic to Old Rancher jeans. There’s wealth here, but like the landscape, it’s understated.

The Hotel Saint George specializes in subtle conundrums. A clean, contemporary design blends perfectly with those construction materials from the past. Paintings and mixed media projects dress the lobby and 55 rooms, hinting at the range of arts available in Marfa.

Silent but present throughout the hotel and town is the impact of the late artist Donald Judd. His Chinati Foundation continues to offer events, exhibitions, and permanent installations on its 340 acres — a former military base. Another repurposed treasure. Can’t make it out to the Chinati? Look for art books on Judd in the bookstore, where one can browse or buy, day or night. You may run into an international art tour guide, a past Chinati employee bringing a well-heeled group to the hotel. She says, “No matter where I go, I always want to come back to this place.”

Minimalism & Mystery: Experience the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, Texas

Photo: John Spaulding. A wide selection of authors awaits in the bookstore. Well-read dogs are welcome.

In the bookstore, we visit with a young man who has lived in Marfa ten years, teaches in the Marfa Elementary School, and has small children of his own. In a town with many visitors and vagabonds, he calls this place home.

Unexpected combinations continue. The five-star hotel welcomes well-behaved dogs. On a recent visit, our 10-year-old greyhound took pride of place on her comfy pad in the lobby bar, where we were served a delicious dinner, followed by a hearty breakfast the next morning.

Minimalism & Mystery: Experience the Hotel Saint George in Marfa, Texas

Photo: John Spaulding. The lobby itself can be a great gathering location for people-watching.

Since Marfa owes its existence to the railroad, don’t be surprised when the occasional freight train rumbles by, less than a block from the hotel. Earplugs are provided for light sleepers. At first, the horn may be startling, but the sound eventually fades into the surrounding desert. One actually becomes used to the sound, as it’s a reminder of the grit and grand vision that built this place.

The desert does much with little, and it’s full of undiscovered life. What at first may seem out of place becomes, as you study it, part of the true landscape. Much like the way a thunderstorm adds life to the area it touches, the Hotel Saint George brings additional life to the town and the people it attracts.

Visit their website! Or call 432-729-3700.