Everything you need to know about Austin's Commodore Perry Estate

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An unassuming neon sign hangs outside the grounds of the Commodore Perry Estate in Austin.  Behind a stone wall and wrought-iron gate is one of the most unique places in the city, a 10,800-square-foot Gatsby-era manor with 10-acres of European-style gardens.

The estate was recently restored to its former glory and given a new life as a luxury boutique hotel. How did this hidden 1928 mansion survive Austin’s seemingly endless surge of growth and development? Keep reading for a look at the history and jaw-dropping renovation of this historic Austin landmark.

The history of the Commodore Perry Estate

While Edgar Howard “Commodore” Perry was golfing at the now Hancock Golf Course in the early 1900s, a gravel pit across the street caught his eye. He envisioned developing a showplace estate for entertaining.

Perry, contrary to his title, was not a naval officer but a real estate developer, cotton trader, hotel owner and businessman who later became the head of the Austin Housing Authority.  (Commodore was a factitious nickname given to him after his boat washed away in a storm on Lake Austin.)

Edgar Howard “Commodore” Perry and his wife Lutie. 

Commodore Perry Estate

In 1917, he purchased the gravel lot and established the 10-acre estate gardens. Every aspect of the estate was influenced by Perry’s European travels. An upper terrace with a curved seating area overlooked a sunken garden designed in a cross-axile layout featuring marble fountains and pools bordered with hedges. When he purchased the neighboring lot along Waller Creek in 1925, a stone wall and wrought-iron fence were built around the estate. A 10,800-square-foot Italian Renaissance revival manor, designed by local architect Henry Bowers Thompson, followed in 1928. The estate was the height of luxury with a guest house, swimming pool, bowling alley, greenhouse and a six-car garage. Perry and his wife, Lutie, entertained in true Gatsby-style at the height of the roaring 1920s with grand parties.

Less than two decades after the manor was built, Perry had a revelation — the estate was “a great place to throw a party but too big to live in.” In 1944, he sold the property.

It exchanged hands many times afterward, starting with a succession of schools, including St. Mary’s Academy in 1947 who built several buildings and a chapel on the property. At one time, it was even a learning center for an Indian guru. In 2011, the property purchased by an LLC comprised of a group of investors including Austin developer Clark Lyda, who formerly attended high school on the grounds and wanted to see it restored. The estate, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, started a new era in June 2020 as the Commodore Perry Estate, a luxury boutique hotel and event space operated by the Auberge Resorts Collection

The restoration of the Commodore Perry Estate

The six-year restoration and expansion project returned the architectural landmark to its stunning Jazz Age glory with a team of award-winning design firms. Two local firms, Clayton Korte and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, joined urbanist architecture firm Moule and Polyzoides and renowned designer Ken Fulk in the collaborative effort.

The original mansion and chapel were restored and modernized while retaining the architectural style. Two former school buildings were torn down to make way for a new three-story inn. The courtyard-style building features 42 guest rooms and seven terraced suites.

The Commodore Perry Estate features 10 acres of gardens and the original 1928 mansion, which has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel. The structure of the formal gardens was left intact with the original fountains. Two white lion statues on the bottom of the garden stairs are also original. 

Anna Mazurek Photography

The structure of the formal gardens was left intact with the original fountains. The two white lion statues on the bottom of the garden stairs are also original. Additional pathways were seamlessly added to connect spaces using materials and brick paver patterns to match existing brickwork. Original tiles were used where possible — in the chapel’s bathroom and mansion’s solarium floor. Since ovals were a favorite shape of the original architect, the shape was incorporated in many spaces, including the new 50-foot pool donned with Palm Springs-inspired bright yellow chaise lounge chairs and striped umbrellas. A freestanding-standing garden restaurant was also added adjacent to the mansion.

San-Francisco-based creative designer Ken Fulk took the reigns as creative director and designer for the interior of the mansion, inn and Lutie’s Garden Restaurant. Fulk followed original color palates found on the property during the restoration and spent two years scouring the nearby Round Top Antiques Fair for furniture and unique décor items.

The mansion’s original five rooms were transformed into suites named after previous estate owners and the architect. One of the most stunning of Fulk’s transformations was the former staff quarters that became the all-pink 616-square-foot LaVerne Suite, named after former estate owner LaVerne Henderson, who lived on the property with her husband Marvin from 1974 to 1994 and was integral in preserving the estate. The rooms walls and ceiling are covered in fabric with a pink flowering branch pattern. A dumbwaiter was converted into a mini-bar with the words “Not-So-Dumbwaiter” painted on the outside in gold letters. A freestanding soaking tub and a rain shower are standard in all the mansion bathrooms.

The largest suite in the mansion at the Commodore Perry Estate is the Mr. and Mrs. Perry Suite, a 1,532-square-foot space named after the owners. It features two bedrooms including one with cork-paneled walls decorated with a safari-inspired design, a nod to the couple’s love of travel.

Anna Mazurek Photography

The largest and most exclusive accommodation in the mansion is the Mr. and Mrs. Perry Suite, a 1,532-square-foot space named after the owners. It features his and her bedrooms and can sleep up to five people. Lutie Perry’s original closet was converted into a spacious, elegant white-walled bedroom, while the other bedroom features cork-paneled walls decorated with a safari-inspired design, a nod to the couple’s love of travel.

The most fascinating part of the interior design is the attention to detail. The room names and the emergency evacuation signs were all hand-painted. Every suite has a vintage bar cart lined with handpicked libations and a desk with a typewriter that the hotel staff uses to leave notes for guests during turn-down service. All of the bathroom fixtures have a vintage aesthetic. The downstairs powder room has a custom-designed blue and white wallpaper with an outline of the mansion’s exterior and foxes, the estate mascot.

The main stairs inside the mansion at the Commodore Perry Estate. 

Commodore Perry Estate

The newly built 49-room inn fuses European elegance and Austin charm. The lobby is encircled by a 28-foot-tall mural by artist Deborah Philips of a Texas landscape complete with bluebonnets in bloom. The adjacent seating area is an eclectic mix of Texas and mid-century Italian décor items. Each of the seven suites are named after trees that grow on the property — pomegranate, cypress, magnolia, mountain laurel, climbing rose and night jasmine. The largest one-bedroom suite, the Magnolia Suite, includes 1,100 square feet of both indoor and outdoor space, including a patio and private garden. A dining table for six sits in a room with a floor-to-ceiling forest design covering the wall. An oversized L-shaped leather sectional dominates the white-walled living area. In the corner sits one of the most unique décor items — a claw-shaped chair that appears to be made of cow horns. Meanwhile, the rooms at the inn all have a sophisticated charm with Juliette balconies or oversized windows, rain showers and poster beds.

The Commodore Perry Estate is the first urban property for the Auberge Resorts Collection and the first hotel design project for Fulk.

The Commodore Perry Estate guest amenities

One of the most unique guest privileges is the use of three Mercedes-Benz house cars, which includes two convertibles. There is also a 24-hour fitness center located in the former carriage house and weekly events ranging from exercise classes to poolside movies. An added bonus is the pool, which is only open to guests, so no need to worry about overcrowding from day visitors. Golf lovers can tee off across the street at the nine-hole Hancock Golf Course, one of the oldest golf courses in Texas, where Perry was inspired to build the estate.

A Mercedes-Benz parked at the Commodore Perry Estate.

Commodore Perry Estate

All-day dining is also available in the mansion, and breakfast is served in the Garden Nook featuring Pierre Frey parrot-themed wallpaper. Meals can also be enjoyed in the solarium, outdoor patio and other common spaces, including the pool area. For dinner, there’s Lutie’s Garden Restaurant, located steps away on a brick path on the eastern side of the estate.

A 50-foot oval-shaped pool was added to the Commodore Perry Estate during a six-year renovation project. The pool area has a Palm-Springs vibe with yellow and white stripped umbrellas and chaise lounge chairs. 

Anna Mazurek Photography

The urban oasis is also a popular event space with over 3,000-square-feet of outdoor space to host weddings, parties, meetings and other private gatherings. The 1,600-square-foot chapel, built by St. Mary’s Academy, was remodeled and is a prime wedding destination.

Lutie’s Garden Restaurant 

Named after the estate’s matriarch, this freestanding garden restaurant, designed by Clayton & Little, is the only part of the estate open to the public. The interior design was also done by Ken Fulk, who focused on a modern interpretation of a sophisticated country club. Natural light fills the interior from the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the English gardens. Live plants and glass chandeliers dangle from the ceiling above the tufted teal velvet bar stools. A black and white striped awning over the patio gives off more country-club vibes. Even the bathroom wallpaper follows the garden theme.

The interior decor of Lutie’s Garden Restaurant, designed by Ken Fulk, is a modern interpretation of a sophisticated country club. The garden-themed eatery features live plants dangling from the ceiling. 

Anna Mazurek Photography

The only thing more stunning than the interior is the food. The husband-and-wife-team of executive chef Bradley Nicholson and executive pastry chef Susana Querejazu are at the helm of the culinary program. With over a decade of experience each, the duo previously worked at renowned Austin establishments Barley Swine and Odd Duck and were both recipients of the Ment’or BKB Grant program for 2016-17, where they had the opportunity to expand their skills in Europe.

Ingredients are sourced from the estate’s organic urban farm and gardens as well as local ranchers and farmers. “I’ve spent my entire career working in restaurants that focus on sourcing local ingredients,” explains Nicholson about the highly-seasonal menu. “By building relationships with these local purveyors, it ensures that the ingredients that are used in our kitchen were crafted and cared for by people as passionate about quality as we are. Working with small, local farms gives us access to heirloom and specialty varieties of produce. It isn’t always easier to source food and cook this way, but it supports the community we are located in and leads to more interesting cuisine.” 

The star of the ever-changing menu is a series of signature dishes, which are adjusted to highlight the season’s local organic ingredients. For example, the Petite Aioli features a series of grilled, marinated or pickled vegetables with a creamy handmade aioli dip. While the Green Dish might appear to be an ordinary salad at first glance, the flavor of the vegetable dish and the exquisite green sauce is extraordinary. Ingredients range from carrots to butternut squash or dragon tongue beans based on the season.  

The estate bread is served with a photogenic slice of layered butter, made with clarified brown and cultured butter. The bread is often served later in the meal because it pairs nicely with the sauces of the larger dishes like the Texas beef cut. Seafood food highlights include the Delta Blues Rice with a market-fresh fish served with smoked trout roe. Dishes are meant to be shared, with five dishes typically being ample for two people.

“Like Bradley and his dishes, I tend to create desserts that are deceptively simple,” explains Querejazu about her philosophy in the kitchen. “Visually, they may seem like only a few components, but each item has a complex and delicate preparation. The focus of the dessert menu and restaurant overall is deeply rooted in developing strong flavors.” 

The highlight of the dessert menu at Lutie’s Garden Restaurant is the kouign-amann ice cream. Handmade by executive pastry chef Susana Querejazu, the kouign-amann is a French pastry broken into pieces and folded into vanilla ice cream and served with warm caramel sauce at the table. 

Anna Mazurek Photography

The best example of this deceptive simplicity is the star of the dessert menu—the kouign-amann ice cream. Querejazu handmakes the kouign-amann, a French pastry that is like a caramelized croissant, then breaks it into pieces before folding it into vanilla ice cream. The dish is served with a baby kougin-amann on the side and topped at the table with warm caramel sauce.

In addition to food, Lutie’s also has a robust cocktail and drink program that changes seasonally to pair with the available ingredients. During the summer months, it includes a Yubari King, fresh cantaloupe juice, macadamia orgeat, cognac and lime, and an Oliver Twist, an olive-washed vesper martini that pairs well with the lighter seafood and vegetable-focused dishes.

Lutie’s has an additional bar menu with a collection of playful and engaging dishes designed to be enjoyed by one to two people in a bar setting. While reservations are recommended, Lutie’s does offer walk-in seating for parties of four or less for dinner. The elegant garden restaurant is open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner only.

Commodore Perry Estate FAQ

Is parking available at the Commodore Perry Estate?

Yes, valet parking is available for diners at Lutie’s Garden Restaurant. Overnight parking for guests is available for a fee. Electric vehicle charging is also available.

What dining options are available at the Commodore Perry Estate?

The mansion has a dining room with all-day service for hotel guests. Meals can be enjoyed in various locations from the outdoor patio to the solarium. Lutie’s Garden Restaurant is open nightly, Tuesday to Sunday, for dinner for both guests and the public. It is the only space on the estate open to the public.

Is the Commodore Perry Estate pet friendly?

Yes, two pets, up to 60 pounds each, are allowed per room with a nonrefundable pet deposit. Service animals are always welcome for free. A bowl, bed and treats are provided.

Is the Commodore Perry Estate pool heated?

Yes, the pool is open year-round and heated in the winter.

Does the Commodore Perry Estate pool have day passes?

No, the pool is reserved exclusively for hotel guests.

Does the Commodore Perry Estate host weddings, corporate meetings and events?

Yes, there is an onsite event coordinator, and catering is available for weddings, meetings, parties and other gatherings. The largest event space can hold 120 people. Dinners are often held under the picturesque frame of the original greenhouse. There is also an option to rent out the entire estate for a special event. Contact the event office for more details.

Does the Commodore Perry Estate offer a membership program?

Yes, one of the most unique aspects of the Commodore Perry Estate is the membership program, which features thoughtfully curated experiences and programming in literature, art, music, food and drink, design and wellness. A monthly calendar is shared with members about unique experiences, including interactive workshops, panel discussions and chef’s dinners. In addition, members receive a discount on both hotel rooms and private event room rentals along with a discount on other Auberge Resort Collection properties. For more details on the membership program, contact the property.