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Then & Now

Nestled along the Chisholm Trail, the Stagecoach Inn welcomed its first travelers as Salado House Hotel, then later as Shady Villa Hotel. Its storied halls bore witness to the comings and goings of legends like Sam Houston, Robert E. Lee, and the notorious Jesse James. Serving as a vital stop for stagecoaches, it became more than just a resting place; it became a piece of Texas history, being added as a Texas Historical Landmark in 1962. In 2024, The Stagecoach Inn & Restaurant will re-open with it’s original namesake welcoming travelers and locals alike.

Illustration of a stagecoach pulled by horses, depicting the historic transportation used in Salado, Texas.

The Golden Age

When Dion and Ruth Van Bibber breathed new life into the establishment in 1943, it was transformed into the beloved Stagecoach Inn we know today. Their vision transcended mere hospitality; Ruth’s dream of a Texas tearoom birthed culinary delights that would become the stuff of legend. Among them, the iconic tomato aspic, delicately adorned with a dollop of mayonnaise and a single caper, and the indulgent strawberry kiss, a heavenly confection of ice cream, baked meringue, and luscious strawberry sauce.

As the years rolled by, the Stagecoach Inn evolved, expanding its original structure to accommodate additional dining rooms and modern motel-style accommodations. Salado flourished alongside it. Main Street bustled with the opening of art galleries, while a boutique owned by former fashion model Grace Jones added a touch of glamor, attracting socialites from distant corners like New York and Washington, D.C.

Here, ranchers rubbed elbows with city dwellers, all gathering to savor the timeless flavors and warm hospitality of Ruth’s restaurant.

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Salado, Texas

Historic sites and charming shops seem to lie around every corner in this gorgeous little town. Join us for a tour.

The Legend of Sirena

As is written on the placard at Sirena Park: Once upon a time there was an Indian Maiden named Sirena, who wished to marry a young brave of her tribe. As she looked at her reflection in the water, she cried her wish out loud. A magical catfish told Sirena, “I’ll cast a spell on your brave so he will marry you, but you must agree to become a mermaid on the full moon for a year. But if human eyes ever see you in the moonlight you must remain a mermaid forever.” Sirena agreed to the spell and she married the brave. On the full moon, Sirena secretly dove into the water and swam as a mermaid with the old catfish. On the last full moon of the year, as Sirena swam she caught a fish hook in her fin. At that moment her husband walked to the water’s edge and saw Sirena as a mermaid. As their eyes met, the old catfish pulled Sirena back into the water to remain a mermaid forever.

The Legend of Sirena and sculpture of Sirena are attributed to local Salado artist Troy Kelley: https://troysculptor.com/sirena/

Timeline

1859

Thomas Jefferson Eubanks purchased Lot #10 from E.S.C. Robertson for $100

Nov. 30, 1860

Lot #10 becomes the Salado Hotel and it “entertained its first customer”

January 1861

Rumor has it that Sam Houston gave an anti-secession speech from what is now the patio of the Stagecoach Restaurant before sleeping in what is now the Ruth Room

June 1861

Thomas Eubanks enlists in the Confederate service at 50-years old and sells Salado Hotel to his brother-in-law for $1,500

March 1862

Jesse Bryant also enlists into Confederate service and sells Salado Hotel to William Buriage Armstrong, one of Salado’s earliest residents, for $1,500

1865-1867

Jack Green discovers a cave with a spring on the South side of the hotel; the cave was found to be cool year-round and was used to refrigerate goods

1867

William Armstrong sells to 25-year old Charles Stith for $2,500

1868

Charles Stith sells to his father, John, for $2,000

1872

John Stith sells a portion of Lot #10 to Dr. B.D. McKie

1874

John Stith sells Salado House, which it was now commonly referred to as, to Edward “Ed” Robinson Buckels at a public auction for $1,130

1887

Buckels sells to James McKandles for $5,400

1894

McKandles sells to W.T. Love

1900

Love sells to John and Josephine Farr

1902

Farr sells to Mary Olivia Rigsby

1908

The name of the hotel was changed to Shady Villa

1930-1933

Fred & Charles Stevens purchased Shady Villa Hotel

October 20, 1943

Ruth & Dion Van Bibber take ownership of Shady Villa Hotel for $250 down on a $6,000 agreement

1947

The Shady Villa Hotel changed names to Stagecoach Inn

1947

The Stagecoach Restaurant opened.

The infamous hushpuppies came into existence because of the need to buy time for Dion to run to the grocer and get the ingredients needed for each ticket as there was no menu, and guests ordered whatever dish they fancied at that moment.

1951

The Van Bibbers accept a $40k offer for the Inn from Waco couple George H. and Ethel Lane

1953

The Lanes and Van Bibbers both regretted their decisions and the Van Bibbers began leasing it back with an option to purchase

1954

Food critic Duncan Hines, also the creator and founder of the baking boxes that bear his name, review the “delectable” fried chicken and avocado grapefruit salad 

1956

The Van Bibbers regained ownership of the Inn for $61,250

1959

Van Bibbers sell to Bill Bratton, Ruth’s nephew, for $100k but retain monthly salaries as restaurant managers

Construction of Interstate 35 began and would deter traffic West of Highway 81, a few acres away from the Stagecoach Restaurant

Stagecoach Restaurant stars in Life magazine feature “Roadside Inns and Their Fine Food,” which was a boon to Bratton’s investment seeking for his plan

February 1960

Bratton begins construction on the new hotel that would fill the acreage between the restaurant and the new interstate highway, creating a multi-faceted resort with access to each business from both sides

 

October 1960

New Stagecoach Inn and Restaurant opened to rave reviews, such as “…a tasteful blending of two different centuries.”

1963

The beloved hushpuppy recipe was first released to the public, yet had quite deliberately been altered slightly so they were good, but never as good as the ones you could get at the Stagecoach Restaurant

1983 - 1984

Rooms at the hotel increased to 66

May 1985

Dion Van Bibber passes, leaving $1k to 23 specifically-named Stagecoach employees

August 1999

Stagecoach Properties was sold to Morris Foster, the son of former Head of Maintenance Wilbur Foster

2015

Doors of The Stagecoach Inn and Restaurant closed

2017

Stagecoach Inn and Restaurant reopen under new ownership

2021

Hotel’s name changed back to Shady Villa Hotel

2024

Hotel’s name returned to Stagecoach Inn and Stagecoach Restaurant reopens after a year-long renovation