Hotel Drover is the crown jewel in a host of new developments to Mule Alley in Fort Worth’s most beloved and historic area.
Livestock business, tourism, live entertainment, and nightlife have made Fort Worth’s Historic Stockyards a premier Western destination for generations. The area that began in earnest as a crucial livestock shipping point during the late 1800s has evolved into a bustling, walkable destination, still functional for the industry at large but now the No. 1 source of endless fun and hospitality for Cowtown’s visitors.
The history is rich, and it’s honored in every corner of the Stockyards, from the musical lore of large and legendary Billy Bob’s Texas to the lasting beauty of the grand Livestock Exchange Building, with interest points and must-visit entities all along the way. So, any new development there has to be done with sensitivity and with respect to what came before.
The newest round of additions and developments to the Stockyards — one of the most significant the area’s ever seen — indeed arose from concerns for both the past and the future. Most of the last decade has been devoted to this development, overseen by Craig Cavileer, executive vice president of Majestic Realty Co./Stockyards Heritage Development Co.
Cavileer, a fourth-generation Texan, was brought in by longtime Stockyards investor Holt Hickman before Hickman’s 2014 passing to breathe new life into a part of the neighborhood that had housed iconic horse and mule barns for more than 100 years.
“[Hickman] was transferring responsibility to his son and daughter, and we were going through second-generation transitions with the different owners in the Stockyards,” Cavileer says. “Throughout the Stockyards the second generation of family was taking things over. So there was an opportunity to come in and try to do some consolidation and real master planning around what would be the next chapter.
“We really wanted it to respect not just the Stockyards but the American West and the storytelling of the early Texas settlers, and the grit and determination that they had in setting up in the frontier. And then of course there were the great cattle drives in the mid to late 1800s, the Chisholm Trail, and the role that the Stockyards played in the evolution of the cattle industry.”
The result of the involvement of Cavileer and the creation of the Stockyards Heritage Development Co. has started to see light of day over the last several months, after years of planning and development. New eateries such as the Biscuit Bar and chef Marcus Paslay’s Provender Hall, and iconic storefronts from the likes of Lucchese, Wrangler, and King Ranch Saddle Shop are now in place.
The crown jewel of the development — expected to open to the public in February — is Hotel Drover, a decidedly Western 200-room luxury lodge designed to be the central point of all activity in the Stockyards’ new iteration of Mule Alley. Originally planned for a 2020 open, Hotel Drover’s developers found they needed a little more time for buildout during the first stages of the worldwide pandemic.
“It was not a bad idea to push it back a little for us anyway, because it just takes time to build one of these four-star hotels,” Cavileer says. “These things have got a lot of exterior landscaping and fire pits and pools and outdoor areas. It just takes time to get done. So February should be just right for us on that one.
“Honestly, other than the Hotel Emma and a handful of others around the state, there’s nothing that will rival the unique experience of Hotel Drover.”
A hard-hat tour toward the end of the summer confirmed that Cavileer isn’t exaggerating. The rustic, home-y front of the complex seems designed to make visitors feel welcome, but they’ll be taken aback when they step inside to see the grand bar and lobby area, with its warm stone and wood textures. That design scheme extends to the rooms, suites, an eatery (97 West Kitchen and Bar), retail spaces including the Lucchese Custom Boot Shop, and more than 12,000 square feet of available meeting space for groups and conferences.
The name of the hotel itself is inspired by the drovers whose last stop on their cattle drives was often Fort Worth. The hotel’s marketing materials cite the attention to history well: “Returning to the Stockyards after months on the open plains brought familiarity, comfort, and the feeling of coming home.”
Photography: Images courtesy Stockyards Heritage Development Co.
From our February/March 2021 issue.