SALADO, Texas — Tired, hungry cowboys on the Chisholm Trail would stop right here in Salado. We’ve known it as the Stagecoach Inn ... but now, under new management, it’s going back to its original name: The Shady Villa Hotel and Stagecoach Inn Restaurant.
Tiffany Shriner is the director of outreach – we met in a room named for Sam Houston. She explains the historical significance of this 1861 building.
"Once upon a time he gave his famous speech rallying his people and his troops, asking them to sort of form this sort of resilient spirit when morale was low. And he chose this location along the Chisholm Trail."
Other notables who’ve stayed at the inn include General George Custer, Robert E. Lee, cattle barons, and outlaws Sam Bass and Jesse James.
The area was a campground for Native American tribes including the Tonkawa who were attracted to the mineral water springs. Their legacy – the bent trees on the inn’s grounds.
"Tonkawa Indian tribes would bend the sapling to point towards the water source. So, there were countless saplings bent once upon a time, but construction and whatnot, we have about four on the property."
Just across the street at the Salado museum and College Park—executive director Dave Swarthout said newcomers to Salado love the history.
"The thing that I'm most impressed with is if we come right up to the present day, is the number of new families moving to Salado and around Salado who have brought their children here specifically to learn the history of Salado."
There are 40 historically significant points of interest in Salado—including the ruins of Salado College.
"Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson felt that the people here needed a school. So, he establishes Salado college which is the first co-educational school in the state of Texas. And in order to fund it, he sold off lots here to raise money for the college and now we take care of the ruins."
The I-35 road construction a few years ago devastated the village ... then covid—but things are coming back as new businesses are opening like Italian ice cream shop Vecchio Pallino.
And Salado is an artist’s enclave, from fine jewelry designers at Bentons, to Salado glassworks where you can make your own blown glass work of art, to craft beer at the Barrow Brewing Company.
Adding to the charm of Salado is the legend of the mermaid Sirena remembered in a bronze statue by artist Troy Kelly.
"He gifted her to Salado in the late 80s," said Kelly. "His Choctaw and Tonkawa Native American grandmother used to tell him lullaby tales of this brave and resilient mermaid and so sits Sirena, the Native American hero of Salado."
It's all here in Salado ... the history, the art, the food, the shopping. A charming Central Texas destination.