Austin Condo Auction Units are in Texas Political Landmark

April 23, 2009

News that the Brazos Place in downtown Austin will auction off 20 unsold condos next month at cut-price levels kindles memories among Capitol oldtimers of when the building housed the once-regal Commodore Perry Hotel. Opened in 1950, it was advertised as ‘Austin’s hotel of  distinction…completely air-conditioned…radio and television in every room…home of  the Austin Club…nearest to the Capitol.’  The Commodore quickly became an intriguing crossroads of  Texas politics. Complete with an indoor swimming pool, it was a popular late night  hangout of movers and shakers for smoking, drinking and other pursuits of the flesh.

Longtime Austin attorney, political leader and timeless  insurance lobbyist Will Davis, who still offices in the adjacent Perry-Brooks Building,  remembers the hotel as “a gorgeous facility…one of the most beautiful I ever saw.” He recalls vividly that the hotel was a favorite playground for his long-ago partner and colorful Texas political icon, W.W. (Bill) Heath. “He drank a lot of whiskey, played a lot of poker and had a lot  of fun at that hotel”, said Davis. Heath was riding high in political circles in those days. He served as chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents for both Governors Price Daniel and John Connally, and capped his career as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden after appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Davis says that as a confidant of the President, Ambassador Heath was a major influence in Johnson’s decision to locate the LBJ Library on the UT campus.

Former Texas Secretary of the Senate Charles Schnabel, who still works the Capitol halls on behalf of his clients, remembers the Commodore Perry as the place where Texas House Speaker Billy Clayton organized and directed his campaign for that office back in 1975. “The walls of that hotel could tell a lot of political stories”, he said. 

The landmark structure struggled after its later conversion into an office building, but was fully renovated and reborn into a modern condo community two years ago.  A major appeal to political types: it still is only a few minutes away from the Capitol.

–Julian Read

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