This Former Texas Motor Motel Is Shifting Gears

In a new San Antonio hotel, one preservationist combines nature, history, and plenty of character

An open-air courtyard planted with native grasses, trees, and flowering sage

Photo: JoMando Cruz

The open-air courtyard at the Ranch Motel & Leisure Club.

San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park is home to many treasures, including the city’s namesake river, a Japanese tea garden, and an abundance of flora and fauna. Neighboring the 343-acre sanctuary is another treasure, the Ranch Motel & Leisure Club. This fall, the twenty-six-room motor court turned urban resort reopened after a renovation and redesign by hotelier Jayson Seidman. Its blend of historic preservation and Texas-centric new details have already made it a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike.

photo: JoMando Cruz
A guest casita.
Bermuda shoreline
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The native Texan and founder of the hospitality brand Sandstone has a history of reviving historic properties, including the Columns and Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans and the Thunderbird Hotel in Marfa, Texas. “Motels are a dying breed,” Seidman says. “I feel those that are in the right location should be preserved and appreciated.”

photo: JoMando Cruz
A path and garden wind around the motel.

Despite the motel’s decades-long neglect, Seidman saw something special in the midcentury bones and central location of his latest Texas project. The hideaway is tucked off Broadway—one of the city’s main thoroughfares—and sits conveniently within walking distance of the Pearl Brewery, the San Antonio Zoo, museums (including the Witte and the DoSeum), and of course, Brackenridge Park.

“We want it to feel like an extension of the park,” Seidman says of the property. Inside, the calming smell of Palo Santo incense wafts through an open-air courtyard planted with native grasses, trees, and flowering sage. What was once the motel parking lot is now a natural oasis with a long, heated swimming pool running through the middle.

photo: JoMando Cruz
A lounge area by the heated pool.

In collaboration with the local architect Evan Morris, the hotelier transformed the grounds from a car-centric space to a people-centric one. Historic D’Hanis brick bungalows were thoughtfully converted into minimalist casitas reflecting the earthy taupe, sage greens, and moody blues of South Texas. “We want people to remember this for what it is, and what it used to be,” says General Manager Arion Harris. “We believe less is more.”

photo: JoMando Cruz
A peek inside a guest room.

As with Sandstone’s other properties, Seidman mixed high and low, balancing the motel’s brutalist masonry walls and floors with luxury touch points like Thuma beds, Parachute linens, and Le Labo bath amenities. Existing details such as the gingerbread trim and hand-painted porcelain room numbers were retained, while the outdoor carports were reimagined as pergolas. “We are doing our best to be preservationists,” Seidman says. “There’s an element of imperfection we’re trying to embrace.” Soon, Ranch Motel will open its outdoor bar along with an intimate mezcal lounge and HiFi listening room. The property is also debuting its Leisure Club early next year. Located next door on the grounds of a former amusement park, the club will include pickleball courts and space for food trucks. Locals and visitors can purchase memberships or day passes while taking advantage of the motel’s forthcoming wellness programming, which will include sound baths, yoga classes, and tarot card readings. “Every project we tackle, we’re trying to raise the bar,” Seidman says. “I hope the Ranch will be utilized as a place for all to escape.”