MARFA, Texas – Along the city streets of Marfa, every sunset seems to tell a story. Surrounded with so much history, it’s hard to pick a specific place to put yourself back in time – that is, until you come across an old hotel with nearly 100 years of history with a connection to Hollywood lore.
Vicki Barge is the General Manager of Hotel Paisano, a hotel built in 1930 that’s near a dear to her heart.
“I just have this personal interest and love in historic hotels,” said Barge.
Hotel Paisano started rising out up out of the Trans-Pecos terrain in October of 1929, the same month as the stock market crash of the Great Depression. By June of 1930, the inn billed as the most elegant hotel between El Paso and San Antonio opened its doors to guests and cattle ranchers who came to town to cut deals on livestock.
Of course, the dim lights in the desert have been attracting tourists to this town and to this hotel from all over the world but when a few of the brightest stars of the big screen descended upon Marfa to make movie magic, El Paisano was the place to poke around.
“There were actually four hotels in town at the time, and every hotel room was taken by cast and crew, which was, you know, great to the town,” Barge said. “The main characters, the main stars were here in our hotel. Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean. But, we do know where they stayed during the time they were here as well as Dennis Hopper and Chill Wills. We know the area where they stayed.”
It was the summer of 1955 when some of the biggest stars of yesteryear walked these halls while filming the movie classic, Giant. At the time, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor were the biggest billed stars and the rooms they stayed in are open to guests. First, we took a look at the Rock Hudson suite, a corner unit slightly bigger than some of the other rooms because of his star status. He roomed across the hall from Elizabeth Taylor, sparking rumors about the pair in the local gossip mill.
While these two rooms are popular, there is one other that brings the rebel out of everyone who seeks it – James Dean’s room.
“It’s seldom empty. People ask for it, and if they can only stay in it one day and then have to move out, then they’re happy. Folks want to stay in the James Dean room,” said Barge. “It’s amazing to me the number of teenage girls today who still swoon over James Dean. So, he’s everlasting popularity there.
This room has been kept as original as possible.
“We’ve not retiled that bathroom. It’s a little dingy with age, but we just, we hesitate to touch it too much,” Barge said. “We want to try and keep that since it’s the last of the original rooms from those stars that stayed here.”
Today all that really remains is the memories and a case filled with fading photographs of the time when Giant came to town.
Marfa continues to attract celebrities from all over the world – heck, you never know who you might run into in this west Texas town. But for some reason, it’s hard to top the time Rock, Elizabeth, and James came here. And when you add their mystique to the marvel and memoirs of this old west Texas hotel, well it becomes well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“Because of its charm. Because it is just an extremely beautiful building and because of the history, because Giant was filmed here. Every Texan needs to see that, the place where those folks were, the place where that was filmed. And everybody needs to see this part of their state,” said Barge.