Just a fabulous little inn in the country.
by Marene Gustin
Photos by Rob Alfieri Photography
Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, in the historic town of Comfort, population just over two thousand, you’ll find a 132-year-old inn called Hotel Faust on historic High Street.
The original Ingenhuett-Faust Hotel was designed by Alfred Giles, and the two-story structure was built by Peter Ingenhuett in 1880. The western wing was added in 1894, and for many years it served as a stagecoach stop on the way to San Antonio where travelers could find room and board for just two dollars a day.
The prices today are slightly higher, but the historic charm remains, with a few modern conveniences added by the new owners, Houston couple Kevin and Chris Sokol-White.
Kevin was first to discover the town of Comfort. “I was Googling Hill Country real estate about ten years ago,” explains Kevin, an energy company CPA. “I found a place and went to look at it.” He didn’t buy that property, but he did fall in love with the tiny town, its antique shops, historic buildings, German heritage, and two wineries.
And a few years later, he fell in love with Chris Sokol.
“Chris is from Sugar Land, but had moved away. He’s a fitness trainer, and we met at the gym here in Houston in 2006 right after he moved back to the area. But we didn’t start to date until 2007. That’s when I took him to Comfort.”
And they found comfort in the Texas Hill Country—and love, rejuvenation, and acceptance.
“I just loved it,” says Chris. “We started bringing friends here, and they loved it, and we just thought, What if we could do this on a bigger scale? Introduce people to the quiet charm of Comfort?” Which is exactly what happened.
They started spending more and more weekends in Comfort, although, oddly enough, they never stayed at the hotel that was operating under a different name at the time, and slightly worn down after more than a century. In 2009, they bought a house just outside of town. “And our realtor was also handling the sale of the hotel,” says Kevin. “That’s when we first started to think about buying it and eventually moving here as part of the community.”
It wasn’t until June of 2012, when they came to Comfort and stayed a week, that they actually bought the hotel.
They changed the name back to reflect its history, and set to work on renovations. They knew exactly what they wanted—to restore the rooms to their original charm while adding modern-day features such as flat-screen TVs with cable, Wi-Fi in the common areas, and spa bathroom features, all while reusing old framing and trim in order to preserve as much history as possible.
The main building features twenty-inch limestone walls, fourteen-foot ceilings, deep porches with rocking chairs, and six guest suites. It is an oasis of relaxation far away—well, about three-and-a-half hours away—from the bustle of city life in Houston.
Besides the original two-story hotel, they added rooms to the carriage house, the Ingenhuett log cabin, and the Gorman cottage on the property, creating a total of nine guest rooms that are all named for founding families in the town. Future plans call for a retail shop in the hotel.
The couple reopened the hotel in October of last year, the same weekend that they held their marriage ceremony at Comfort’s Riven Rock Ranch overlooking the Guadalupe River.
There are plenty of places to eat near the hotel, like the Plaid Goat across the street that serves small plates with wine and espresso, or chef/owner Millard Kuykendall’s 814 Texas Bistro next door. Housed in the town’s original post office, 814 serves dinners of seasonal gourmet comfort food and a hearty Sunday brunch.
But if it’s a weekend brunch you’re hankering for while in Comfort, you might do well to just stay at the Hotel Faust.
Kevin runs the Saturday-and-Sunday-only brunch dining room, and Chris mans the kitchen to serve up a real country menu. “Scrambled eggs, biscuits, sausage, and my mom’s homemade skillet potatoes for Saturday,” he says. “And Sundays it is always seasonal pancakes—blueberry, strawberry, or peach.”
The dining room is in the carriage house, with its original barrel ceiling that provided height for the carriages, refinished light wood floors, restored light fixtures, and an oversized antique buffet. French doors look out on the courtyard, making it easy for you to stroll outside while sipping your coffee—and maybe working off those pancakes.
It all sounds so idyllic, so rustically Texas—which often translates to Republican political views and not-so-LGBT-friendly locals. But that would absolutely be the wrong assumption about Comfort. Settled by a group of German Freethinkers in the mid-1800s, Comfort even has a plaque dedicated to those progressives who supported abolition, women’s suffrage, religious freedom, and secular schools. If gays had been more open at the time, they probably would have embraced them as well.
Comfort is also known as the 1862 site of a massacre that killed thirty-four residents who tried to flee to Mexico after the Confederate States of America declared martial law on central Texas. The Treue der Union Monument (“Loyalty to the Union”) was erected in Comfort on High Street in 1865, and still marks the burial site of those who were killed.
“It’s all about the people here,” says Chris. “A lot of them are like us, from cities, but even the natives are just so friendly and accepting.”
“We found something in Comfort,” adds Kevin. “There’s nothing else like it—small-town charm, but with a sophistication. We’ve been so welcomed. People don’t have labels here.”
And having a gay couple as neighbors has never been an issue for the locals. “The couple who owned the hotel before us was a gay couple, and they had half the town show up for their 35th anniversary,” says Kevin. “So they were the trailblazers.”
Plus, he adds that about half the businesses on High Street are owned by gays.
So if you’re looking to move to the country and settle down, or just find a weekend retreat to unwind and get off the grid, this is it.
Just don’t wait too long.
The New York Times has recently written about Hotel Faust as being the architectural crown jewel of Comfort. The word is out, so hurry out west before Comfort becomes the next Marfa.
717 High Street, Comfort, Texas
830/995-3030 • hotelfaust.com
Marene Gustin also writes about Trey McIntyre and Dixie’s Tupperware Party in this issue of OutSmart magazine.