Laguna Gloria: Historic Outdoor Paradise in the Middle of Austin

Laguna Gloria Austin

Laguna Gloria on Lake Austin

There’s a quiet retreat waiting for you. And if you live in Austin, it’ll only take you a few minutes to get there.

Feel free to take your dog, child, significant other, or best friend. But you may find that Laguna Gloria becomes your favorite place in Austin to explore all by yourself.

 

 

History

Putto Fountain at Laguna Gloria

Putto Fountain from Rome

Laguna Gloria was built in 1916 by an amazing woman named Clara Driscoll. Clara was a world traveler who loved Italy especially, so she styled her new home as an Italian villa.

Laguna Gloria was a socialite’s paradise in its youth, hosting international dignitaries and politicians, as well as many friends. Romantically, party goers often arrived by boat!

In 1943, Clara Driscoll donated Laguna Gloria to the Texas Fine Arts Association. Today it belongs to AMOA-Arthouse, which has a second art museum on Congress.

 

Artwork

Future Perfect by Ann Tarantino

If you look through to the tea room, you’ll see Ann Tarantino’s laser cut drawings on the windows that let in light

Laguna Gloria is home to unique art. New Works by Texas artist Michael Menchaca is being housed through February 17, 2013 in the Gatehouse Gallery at Laguna Gloria. In the villa itself, artists Ann Tarantino and Bethany Johnson are turning heads with their creativity.

Ann Tarantino has used washable ink to decorate the walls of Laguna Gloria with feathery artwork. And I love Bethany’s Rain Collection series, which turns real-life rainfall in Austin into artwork with sooty glass and balls of flour!

Rain Collection I: Year of Rain by Bethany Johnson

Bethany Johnson placed soot-covered glass outside for one minute during each rain in Austin for a year – this is Rain Collection I: Year of Rain

How to Enjoy Laguna Gloria

For your first visit to Laguna Gloria, I recommend that you take a docent-guided tour. Tours are only offered twice a week: at 1 PM on Saturday and Sunday. I narrowly missed the tour on my visit (I didn’t realize they’re given so infrequently), but I hear that they’re wonderful and give a lot of interesting insight into Clara Driscoll’s story. As I mentioned, she was a fascinating person. Did you know that she single-handedly saved the Alamo? Or that she once lived in Oyster Bay, NY…the home of my favorite president ever? (Brownie points to whoever guesses which president!)

Laguna Gloria solarium

Solarium upstairs in the Laguna Gloria villa

I was surprised that there wasn’t more to see in the villa itself beyond a few works of art. There is a beautiful solarium upstairs that can be rented out, but on the average day it’s not much more than an empty room. Fortunately, even after you’ve seen the art and taken the tour, Laguna Gloria still has something for you. The grounds are open for you to explore, sit with a journal or a friend, or enjoy a picnic lunch with a group.

Laguna Gloria Austin

Laguna Gloria in the sunshine

You will be astounded by the natural beauty of this property! There’s a lagoon on one side, Lake Austin on another, and ancient-looking foliage all around you. The Garden of the Four Seasons borders the villa, as well as the Sunken Garden, where I found a beautiful statue by Charles Umlauf, a childhood friend of mine (his wife Angie, who recently passed away, was the closest thing to a grandmother that I ever knew).

Poetess sculpture by Charles Umlauf

Poetess, by Charles Umlauf

Lover’s Lane, where I half-expected a nymph to pop out from the trees, will lead you to the Temple of Love on the lagoon. It’s no surprise that Laguna Gloria hosts 80-100 weddings each year. It’s brimming with romanticism and quiet peace.

Lover's Lane in Laguna Gloria Austin

Lover’s Lane

I love being outside and I’m an introvert who appreciates time away to regroup and think. So if you’re anything like me, I think you’ll absolutely adore this place.

Temple of Love at Laguna Gloria in Austin

The Temple of Love

The Details

As far as the practical nitty-gritty goes, you’ll get to Laguna Gloria by taking 35th St. west until it dead-ends. It’s just beyond the turn-off for Mt. Bonnell and it’s right beside Mayfield Park. Seriously, this amazing paradise is in the middle of Austin! You can enjoy the Laguna Gloria grounds for free. A small admission is charged to see the villa and art galleries. See admission details here.

Lagoon at Laguna Gloria

Overlooking the lagoon

 

@QuasiBrit asks:

Do you have any Laguna Gloria stories? What do you like to do when you visit?

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  • Austinot

    Also worth mentioning is that the original gates from the Capitol of Texas were purchased by Clara and now are used as the entrance gates to Laguna Gloria. I love history, so wanted to add that little tidbit. ~ Eric

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aden04 Angela C Denghel

    I had the pleasure to work with the Clara Driscoll Foundation in Corpus
    Christi. Clara was a very interesting and cultured person indeed. I worked documenting all of the letters she kept in her possession that people
    wrote to her from the Daughter’s of the Republic of Texas to the King and Kleberg families and even seeing a President’s Signature. There is much untold Texas History and many interesting people she knew. I totally forgot about this property and most definitely want to go see it for myself

  • http://twitter.com/2TourAustin_net 2TourAustin_net

    I visited Laguna Gloria on a free museum day and loved it. Very beautiful. As for president, I am not sure. Unless you mean Clara herself…as she was president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the
    Open Forum of Austin, Austin Garden Club as well as the Violet Crown Garden Club

    • http://www.austinot.com/ Brittany Highland

      Smile, thanks for guessing @twitter-635063051:disqus. Oyster Bay, NY was the home of President Theodore Roosevelt, where his Sagamore Hill estate still stands (one of my favorite historical stops in the whole country).

  • Sam

    An amazing place. We will certainly visit when we arrive in Austin.