I’ve always wanted to step back into the 1920s and live out my Daisy Buchanan fantasies, surrounded by the glamour of the Art Deco era. It turns out dreams sometimes sort of come true, because, just last week, I had the opportunity to stay in Hotel 1928 in Waco, Texas, and experience the beauty of the early 20th century—only with the amenities of modern times.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are beloved for Fixer Upper, their grand Magnolia Market, and a design style that typically stayed within the realm of modern farmhouse and rustic chic. But the fact that their style has evolved in recent years is extremely evident in the couple’s complete renovation of the Waco Castle, and, now, this historic hotel. In partnership with AJ Capital Partners—a Nashville-based real estate company—the Gaineses wholly embraced the aesthetic of the 1920s, which is when the hotel was originally built. They combined that retro vibe with their own modern and Southern styles and the property’s existing Moorish Revival aesthetic to create a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel in downtown Waco, roughly a 10-minute walk away from their famous Silos.
Though there are plenty of Magnolia sites you could make a pilgrimage to in Waco, the hotel is a glamorous throwback with broad appeal to more than just Magnolia fans. I’d argue that you could—and should—spend an entire weekend in the small city without ever exiting the front double doors of the hotel. On top of the 33 rooms, the hotel has two restaurants, a cafe, a library, a sitting room, a grand ballroom, and a gift shop. And in all spaces, the historical details run deep, starting with the ceiling in the lobby. The beams are painted with beautiful, Middle-Eastern-influenced designs from when the hall was built in 1928 as the Grand Karem Shrine Temple, home to the local community organization. The Temple closed in 1995, and the building stayed mainly empty until now, which may be why some of the original details remained so well preserved, such asthe chicken wire windows and hardwood floors in the ballroom.
It’s clear that Chip and Jo worked hard to make the new additions to the space feel glamorously old, such as the three crystal chandeliers in the ballroom and the books lining the walls of the library. But they spent just as much time making it feel deeply Texan. The library books come from Texan author Larry McMurtry’s own bookstore, which Chip bought near the end of 2022. Each novel was handpicked for the hotel for the sole purpose of adding more vintage character to the space. With many a board game at your disposal and a little shrine to the late author in the spacious reading area, you could easily spend hours soaking in the warm, pattern-mixing space that’s nestled between two grand staircases, reading by the fireplace.
Of course, when you’re done reading your novel and you’re feeling a bit peckish, there are three food options available for you to choose from—one for all three meals of the day! The main restaurant to the left of the lobby, The Brasserie, is wonderful for a rich dish (I recommend the risotto) as you lounge on a plush bistro booth.
Bertie’s on the Rooftop is sure to be a go-to cocktail joint for guests of the hotel as well as locals, with its elegant white-with-black-trim umbrella-covered tables on the terrace and luxe pink couches and chairs inside. The cafe across from the luxe sitting area offers espresso drinks and pastries that you can enjoy on the green leather couches or the cafe tables next to the front window of the hotel.
Though my entire stay was, honestly, extraordinary, I don’t think I’ll ever get over how impressed I was with the attention to detail as a whole. The staff is a well-oiled machine, showing up at my door with a pot of coffee, as requested, at 8:15 in the morning, and bringing a carafe of water and some trail mix during turndown service at night. But it’s the design details that give the hotel its Gatsby vibe, from the gold, vintage-looking service bell at the front desk to the historically accurate light switches with dimmers.
While many of the rooms are already booked well into the New Year, you can make a reservation to stay at the hotel this spring. Just be prepared for not wanting to leave the hotel—or the roaring ’20s—once your stay is up. I know I didn’t want to.
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