The bones of the Baer Barn B&B in Fredericksburg are steeped in history — the original structure was built in 1860. But this historical shelter has seen a little bit of new construction and a great deal of upgrading, making it a seamless combination of old and new. (more…)

It’s no secret that we at Second Shelters have a soft spot for the Texas Hill Country — with its wide open spaces, the beautiful scenery, and the plethora of wineries that dot the landscape, it’s hard to find something you don’t like about Fredericksburg.

Come see the adorable farmhouse we found that would make a great second home for anyone who wants to be within walking distance of shopping and dining downtown.

As if it was even possible, Boot Ranch’s award-winning Hal Sutton-designed course just got better. The 18-hole golf mecca in the Texas Hill Country now offers improved playability with an enormous, tailor-made practice area. We got a chance to preview the completely redesigned links at this incredible resort just outside of Fredericksburg last weekend, and we came away absolutely impressed.

To find out more about the impressive upgrades this already phenomenal facility, we chatted with Barbara Koenig of Boot Ranch, who took me on a quick tour of the still under-construction course as the resort graciously hosted us for our editorial retreat Sept. 15-17. 

Read the full story on SecondShelters.com now.

Boot Ranch 01BOOT RANCH: I have been telling you about this magical Hill Country second home paradise just four hours south of us (take 281) on the northern tip of Fredericksburg. Think Hal Sutton golf mecca with Hill Country beauty — 2000 plus acres of riding, hiking, shootin’, fishin’, water and even Enchanted Rock as your neighbor. You can get in for about $300,000 and enjoy a true vacation — the concierge folks at Boot Ranch take care of everything before you get there and once you leave.

Boot-Ranch-12-560x400.jpg firepitGreat news: The folks from Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg think you need an escape in the Hill Country. So, for one special evening, they are bringing the Hill Country up to Dallas this week, December 4, Wednesday evening at Anteks at 1135 Dragon Street.

The servin’ starts at 5:30 p.m. so you can catch a quick drink before your next three events. Come by and sign up to win TWO rounds of golf for TWO players, an overnight stay in a most luxurious guest lodge (plenty of marble around the bathtub, never fear) all this on a course rated one of the Top Ten in Texas five times by the Dallas Morning News. Boot-Ranch-25

If you don’t win that plumb prize, you can still go home with other treasures: a private collection “bible box” from the J. Alexander Collection designed by Jason Lenox of Anteks, a Range Rover gift from the British Emporium, or a bottle of Museum Tower’s new private label wine fresh from Napa.J  Alexander collection4

Come, mingle, shop, and see what it’s like to spend the Holidays in the Hill Country! Who knows, you may end up with a second home under your holiday tree!

Holidays-in-the-Hill-Country-Invite-email640_112346

Boot-Ranch-01-560x400.jpg lodgeFor some reason I am obsessing about the holidays already. I have always wanted to have a gorgeous retreat in the Texas Hill Country where we would all gather for the perfect Norman Rockwell-esque holiday, Texas style, of course — for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Here is what I envision: arrive a day or two before Thanksgiving, get the fixings, take a hike, go horseback riding, start a little dinner prep. On Thanksgiving you send the boys off to golf while the girls cook. Maybe we hop in the pool or hot tub after a day of chopping before dinner. Next day, all the cooks get a massage at the spa, the guys can golf again or skeet shoot. At some point we all climb Enchanted Rock for a 2.5 mile hike to work off the pecan pie and stuffing.

Well, Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg is my newest obsession: glorious spreads from multiple acre ranches to shared ownership Sunday Houses. You can get in for as little as $300,000 for one of the Sunday Houses, and they are exquisite: huge kitchens with granite counters, Viking appliances and plenty of table space for all your cooking and serving. Each room is separate, so you have to walk outside to get there, but the main gathering area has a great room, huge kitchen and laundry. It’s the kind of place where you will be eating Thanksgiving dinner with the deer right outside your window! I actually think the room separation increases privacy and relaxation. There are Overlook Cabins, situated on approximately one-half acre sites with these price points starting at $239,000 to $449,000 including club membership, for dirt. Homes ranging from 1,800 to 4,000 square feet are going up as I write this, many pre-sold. Pricing for the lot and completed cabin ranges from $700,000 to $1.4 million. Then there are the big time homesteads, which range in price from $300,000 to $2.5 million for as little as 2 acres up to a whopping 18 acres, including club membership. These are 5500 to 12,000 square foot homes that take your breath away. Many of these are permanent resident homes.

Boot-Ranch-20-560x400.jpg Sunday HouseWe visited Boot Ranch recently and I fell in love. Here is the whole story on SecondShelters.com. There is absolutely everything to do there, and all the comforts we are used to in our upscale homes, but with nature surrounding. Let’s face it: this girl doesn’t camp, not without a hell of a lot of granite around her. In fact, at Boot Ranch, or nearby, there is 640 acres of granite! Well, the guest lodges not only had granite and jetted tubs, they had kitchenettes with granite and microwave and iceboxes, private patios, office areas, and were steps away from a 55,000 square foot clubhouse that is a cross between Vaquero and the Dallas Country Club. Maybe it’s because the clubhouse was designed by Mike Marsh, who recently completed the rock-laden remodeling of the Dallas Country Club. He maximized terrain and view, and the structure is built like an ancient fortress with great outdoor terraces for dining, fire-watching.Boot-Ranch-12-560x400.jpg firepit

Boot Ranch 14.jpg;family areaThen, too, there is the brand new lagoon-style infinity edge swimming pool that must be 100 feet long. It’s a serpentine flow and a beach-type walk in, the latest in pool styles. In Hawaii, some of these pools actually have sand bottoms! There is a spa and a food/bar pavillon, two elegant dressing rooms and baths, and a tennis court under construction. This is what you do while hubby and the boys golf, and then they join you for a drink. Dinner is available at the Clubhouse, which is more like a country club than a ranch, but still doesn’t feel stuffy. Get bored, there’s Fredericksburg which has evolved from a quaint German town known for it’s peach ice cream and German food — I think everyone in Texas has eaten at Auslander at some point, or the Altdorf Biergarten. But try Vaudeville on Main, and you will find yourself as happy here as you are at Fearings or the Mansion. (Maybe more!) The gourmet food/retail experience was enchanting. You eat in an outside courtyard garden warmed by a massive fireplace, with the showroom and gallery of fine home furnishings, decor accessories and contemporary giftware is next door and wanderable. There are lunch specials, home-made, freshly baked pastries and breads, specialty meats and cheeses as well as an extensive and sophisticated wine and beer menu.  The Supper Club at V” offers a three course menu with wine pairings – excellent wine pairings –by reservation on Monday nights only. I have never enjoyed such wonderful Butternut Bisque.  There is also an oyster bar, seafood tower, martini cart and lattes. All of this sophistication in the heart of Fredericksburg. And you can wear your boots! Casual and easy, that’s Boot Ranch. Then there’s Enchanted Rock, about 15 miles north of Boot Ranch on Milam or Farm to Market Road 965. This road gets you to Llano. Enchanted_rock_2006This is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area that is an easy hike on this beautiful enormous pink granite pluton rock formation located in the Llano Uplift. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area spans 640 acres and rises approximately 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of about 1,825 feet above sea level. It is the largest such pink granite batholith in the United States, a batholith being an underground rock formation uncovered by erosion. Enchanted Rock is loaded with history of Indian battles and settler tales. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Anyhow, it’s starting to look like winter out there, and Thanksgiving is next week. Check out Boot Ranch and this video and tell me if the guy talking doesn’t sound like George W. Bush?

1009_DogParkHaving just returned from a few days in Fredericksburg, I was amazed at how dog-friendly the Hill Country has become. A lot of stores welcome dogs with fresh water and treats in Fredericksburg, and dogs are made so welcome at Boot Ranch they are given their own bowls and bed. Bree’s water even had a lemon floating in it! That emanates over from Austin, which is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation.  Austin has more than 35 pet photographers. They also have a food truck specifically made for dogs. And in Austin, dogs are welcome  everywhere, almost.

But comes word through the Austinist that $3.5 million slated to restore Auditorium Shores Park with grass will ban most of the area from dogs.

Under the new plans for the park, the area that was once primarily used as an off-leash dog park (when it’s not hosting Fun Fun Fun Fest or other events) will now not allow dogs. At all. Off-leash or on. Dogs will instead be restricted to a relatively tiny strip of land on the west end of the park.

Not cool. At a public forum last night, about 40 people showed up and expressed their opinions — not happy campers they. Only one of the 40 expressed approval for the ban, and that might have been a city official who doesn’t like dogs licking his kids (he has three under 3, ever heard of spacing?) and who argued that since Muslim people cannot be touched by dogs, the dog ban would provide a comfortable space for Muslim Austinites. Folks were so hot under the collar City staff had to shut the meeting down after two and a half hours.

According to the Austinist, the donor picking up the tab, C3, gave the money strings-free and the new rules were cooked up by “informal and anecdotal comments by maintenance workers” that dogs should not be allowed in the park.

Course not: they are tired of picking up poop!

The vision is to provide space at this iconic park so that we can all enjoy the space together, but separately,” City official Jesse Vargas concluded.

Separate but equal, separate but together! Sounds to me like the city is not listening to it’s tax-paying peeps. Think anything would ever go down like this in Dallas?

 

Boot Ranch, a luxurious second home “ranching light” community in Fredericksburg, Texas, where you can play city slicker one minute, Arnold Palmer the next, says it’s back. I still have the press kit I received from Boot Ranch now some four years ago. It was the most beautiful kit I have ever received, and useful, to boot: a stitched leather notebook folder, 8 by 10.5. Presto, I was in love with the place. It’s all about the presentation, of course! I was told that George Bush, Sr. would be one of the regulars on the “Augusta” golf course created by Hal Sutton and recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top ten private golf communities in the country. (Rumor was he was buying or being offered a home.) Knowing Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country like I do, I was dying to get over there.

But by 2009 I’d heard the bad news: the 2,050 acre development was foreclosed on after a key lender declared bankruptcy. It was also embroiled in lawsuits involving another investor worried about the resort’s performance, and an Austin couple upset over the handling of its golf membership¬†fee.The real estate world, of course, has changed from what it was in 2005 when BR’s land deals were first done and 2006 when that golf course was completed. Like other second home projects that catered to a seemingly endless supply of the wealthy, I have witnessed the pattern: during these nutty years a golf course was completed almost every¬† day in the United States, 300 to 400 per year, totally driving real estate just like it did at Boot Ranch.

In fact, this reminds me a bit of the Black Rock Club, Marshal Chesrowns’ gorgeous first-class development I was privileged to visit when the market was, shall we say, more robust. Black Rock Development in Coeur D‚ÄôAlene, Idaho ‚Äî at the time “one of the nation‚Äôs fastest-growing vacation and second home locations” also went belly under. Chesrown surrendered ownership of the Club at Black Rock¬† — the 30,000 square foot luxury golf club and housing development — above Lake Coeur d’Alene as high-end real estate in northern Idaho headed south. Washington Trust, a privately held Spokane bank, took the deeds from Chesrown in lieu of foreclosure in 2009. The bad loans were about $12.5 million. Last I heard, a coalition of 8 club owners — membership in the exclusive golf club was $125,000 for starters — bought the club from the bank. Chesrown, a dashing bachelor rancher started his automotive career selling Buicks, became the youngest Toyota dealer in the United States, and founded Chesrown Automotive Group, which he sold to Republic Industries, otherwise known as Auto Nation. He has or had a sprawling horse ranch near Coeur D’Alene and also one in Texas. The development was absolutely first class, and the homes were some of the best built I’ve seen. Still, like Boot Ranch I, they were largesse — pricey, large homes. As America played semantics with the D-word that rhymes with recession,¬† even the wealthiest may have re-thought such a significant investment. I’ll be interested to see how those owners market the place.

Back in “the day”,¬† Boot Ranch was a golf destination attracting high net worth retirees and corporate types who might fly in to Fredericksburg’s own FBO — that’s Fixed Base Operation, on private jets. Get those Lucchese’s mucked up, someone would clean them or fly in a new pair.

And the first vision for this development echoed the times — big stuffy ranch living without any of the work: large, ranch-style lots, some exceeding 30 acres in¬†size. Price tags of¬† $500,000 an acre. Full disclosure: we bought a place in nearby Johnson City, so I was out there shopping and comparing notes.

But by 2006, those mini-ranches were not moving. Neither were the $175,000 golf memberships for real estate owners with $12,000 annual dues. I’m told the cost to join the 105 member golf club has now been cut to $100,000 with $12,000 in annual dues, but I am looking at something from 2007 saying it was $100,000 back then. There were plans for a ranch club, fitness center, spa, equestrian center, tennis, lazy river water park, winery, kids camp, skeet and shooting range. Now I hear 38 lots were added to the first 900-acre section under development, and the average lot size diminished from 8.5 to 5.5 acres.

Boot Ranch was purchased in foreclosure last year by a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and the marketing plans are now including women and grandkids along with the golf-obsessed moneyed guys. My guess is the homes will be smaller and cheaper.

I wonder if they are going to continue with the 3,800 square foot ‚ÄúSunday Houses‚Äù, based on the small houses ranchers built in town for the trip to shop, attend church and chew the fat. These were fractional ownership deals at $300,000 a pop –yikes! –plus HOA dues of $12,500 annually. Homes run as low at $267,000 up to $2,000,000. A $2.4 million home sold this year, and there are $8 million in property reservations to add to a grand total of $26.4 million in real estate sales. The development has sold 36 of the 83 estate lots available in the first phase, not too shabby. The $30 million clubhouse is complete, and the new owners say, “Boot Ranch is back”

I’m dying to get down there and run my fingers over the interiors, see if there are any bargains for us here on SecondShelters.