When Richard and Barbara DeWitt spent $18 million renovating the old Fredonia Hotel in downtown Nacogdoches a couple of years ago they knew they were bringing it back more hip and haute than ever. Inside and out, the six-story midcentury modern building is a beacon for people from many generations who are drawn to its 1950s vibe with all the present day amenities.
Midcentury furniture is found throughout the hotel including near the atrium. Photo by Judy Peacock
The Fredonia was originally built in 1955, a time when American style was all about embracing the future. It was an era of astronauts hurtling into space, and the Twilight Zone and The Jetsons. The building was financed then by the citizens of Nacogdoches. It was named for the Fredonia Rebellion of 1826, when citizens of that era decided the oldest town in Texas needed its independence from Mexico.
Those Nacogdoches people are always stirring up something.
Bowls were made from the wood of an old Catulpa tree that once stood in the atrium. Photo by Judy Peacock
Fredonia is a word coined by early American politician Samuel Latham Mitchill, coupling the English word "freedom" with a Latin ending. He proposed it as a replacement name for America. While that idea didn’t fly, the word stuck and became the name of many towns and cities, fictional movie countries, one rebellion, and one boutique hotel in Texas.
The gift shop is a luxury boutique with locally made and other unique items. Photos by Judy Peacock
In its first 60 years or so The Fredonia Hotel was a hot spot for locals and visitors from all over the world. Famous visitors included Farrah Fawcett, Amy Schumer, and Elvis Presley. After decades of structural changes and ownership transfers, it closed in 2013. It sat empty until the DeWitts purchased and reopened it in June 2017 better than ever.
Today locals and visitors alike frequent The Fredonia Hotel with one bar, two restaurants, two pools, and a gift shop. There are 109 rooms in four different styles: cabana, tower, terrace, and suites.
Fredonia’s Kat Thompson says while the locals enjoy the bar, restaurants, and live music, visitors from all over the world come to stay for a variety of reasons.
"We get families, girls getaways, history buffs, business travelers, and more," Thompson says. "They come for the azaleas, fraternities rent out the whole hotel, for weddings, and more."
Thompson and her husband got married at the hotel after moving from Houston.
"Everyone loves it," she says. "You have the amenities of a big city but it’s a slower pace. It’s relaxing, a vacation, the ultimate getaway from the city."
Entering the front door of the hotel, guests are greeted by friendly, welcoming staff and surrounded by midcentury modern, minimal clean-lined furniture and an iconic staircase that serves often as a backdrop for group photos.
"Every single piece is curated and every piece has a purpose," Thompson says.
On one side of the lobby is the hotel’s gift shop and on the other is the Nine Flags Bar & Grill, which offers a unique setting for drinks and snacks. The tables in the bar are made by hotel employee Alan Sieja from a pecan tree that once stood on the property, and the décor has an industrial feel with copper-colored metal chairs, Edison bulb light fixtures and wall décor. The bar has a view of the main pool, and for those that want to enjoy the outdoors, they can take their drinks and food by the water.
The Nine Flags Bar & Grill is a favorite hot spot for locals and hotel guests. Photo by Judy Peacock.
"This is a beautiful bar," Thomson says. "It feels like you have traveled to a big city and anything you want is possible there."
The main pool area has lots of places to visit with friends and family or to enjoy relaxing solitude underneath tall pecan trees. There are comfy lounge chairs surrounding the pool or seats around a unique gas-lit, metal fire pit. For comfortable cooling-off seating, guests can lounge in reclining chairs in a six-inch deep part of the pool. This pool area is bordered partially by the hotel lobby, bar, and restaurants, with the hotel’s semi-circle of one-story cabana rooms and their patios completing the encircled area.
Photo by Judy Peacock
The Fredonia has two restaurants. 1st City Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily and brunch on the weekends. The Republic Steakhouse — open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday by reservation and serves what Thompson says is the "best steak I’ve ever had."
"1st City Cafe is bright and airy and looks out over the cabana pool and suites. It’s got lots of natural light and a view of beautiful trees. The midcentury modern chairs make it feel like a chic modern diner without the cheesy diner feel. It’s just light and airy and fun and the best place to brunch."
1st City Cafe offers light menu options as well as weekend brunch. Courtesy photos.
The steakhouse promises an upscale dining experience and is available by reservation only. There is a dress code.
"The Republic Steakhouse is the best steakhouse I’ve been to in a long time," Thompson says. "It rivals Houston, Dallas, and Austin and so does the service. You’re truly getting a first class, incredible experience. It’s unmatched."
The Republic Steakhouse is fine dining with reservations and a dress code required. Courtesy Photo.
The Fredonia has a convention center that welcomes up to 1,000 guests in 25,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. They have something scheduled almost every day from parties and reunions to business conferences and weddings.
Just off the convention center is the Terrace which includes one-story and two-story guest rooms that open to a grassy area around a second swimming pool with flower gardens, corn hole set, and an outdoor big screen TV on the side of a building. Pets are allowed in this area. Games are often played here and the hotel presents weekly screenings of kids’ movies on the wall in the summer months.
The Terrace pool area has family games and a large TV screen for watching movies. Photo by Judy Peacock
Many guests enjoy finding fun things to do in downtown Nacogdoches.
"It’s very easy walking distance, just a block or two," Thompson says. "It’s a block over to the Fredonia Brewery, a new hot spot. Another block over finds you smack dab in the middle of downtown with boutiques, different restaurants, and an art gallery. The visitor center is right in the middle of town where visitors learn about the oldest town in Texas and its history. There’s even a small museum in the visitor center."
The Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Stephanie Fontenot says they get a lot of visitors at the center who are staying at The Fredonia. Visitors learn about an abundance of interesting historical sites and museums that show good representations of living back in the 1800s up through present day. But she also says there are a lot of new exciting things to do.
Live music is found in various places in Nacogdoches, from small venues offering local talent to larger venues bringing in big name talent. Banita Creek Hall, County Line Magazine’s Best Live Music Venue in the Upper East Side of Texas for 2018, is located here. There are many art galleries and studios for shopping, enjoying art exhibits, or even creating art. Performing arts are available, too — both from the Stephen F. Austin University’s great theater program and the Lamp-Lite Theatre, where quality community theater productions are presented.
Nacogdoches has a farmers market, beautiful gardens to stroll through, and many hiking trails around the city. The city has festivals, tours, and events every month of the year. Other fun things to do here include a zip line adventure, an escape room experience, and a water park.
There are also wine tastings, unique craft beer experiences, and a chance to sip locally distilled bourbon in different venues. One way to check these out is to go on the city’s structured Wine, Whiskey and Brew Tours. The city’s website lists upcoming tours and says they work to set up special tours for visiting groups.
Fontenot says a favorite place for locals is the Nine Flags Bar and Grill.
"They have a signature drink representing each of the nine flags that fly over Nacogdoches and it’s the place to go for an upscale happy hour."
Thompson agrees The Fredonia is a great place for locals and visitors alike.
"A lot of the locals like that it is an update to what is familiar to them — the midcentury modern gem that has always been here. For the visitors, it is the experience of a four-star hotel with the charm of a small town. Everyone here cares about your experience, from the desk clerk, to the bartender, to the person serving your dinner. We want the experience to be remarkable."