Note: As of June 2018, the Migel House is for sale and no longer accepting reservations.
Passing through Waco a few years ago, I came across a beautiful, century-old mansion made over into a lovely bed-and-breakfast inn.
425 Columbus Ave., Waco
Room rates start at $225 per night.
So as I planned a recent visit, I carefully plotted a stay at Migel House, patting myself on the back for booking a weekend when Baylor’s football team would be playing out of town. Wanting the town to myself for rummaging around shops and lingering in bistros, I foolishly overlooked other events—such as the annual fall Silobration shindig at Magnolia Market. Pulling into downtown, I dodged foot traffic resembling that of Manhattan sidewalks, as well as a parade of shuttle buses transporting thousands of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fans from distant parking lots.
The hubbub disappeared in the serenity of Migel House, which sits a mile from the now world-famous shopping compound. You can walk there in 20 minutes—or drive it in five—from Migel House, but whatever festivity is happening over at the market simply doesn’t register within the confines of this luxurious guest home. That is, of course, unless your fellow guests are in town specifically to visit The Silos, so nicknamed for the two weathered cottonseed silos that are the market’s landmarks. In fact, a couple I met over yogurt, muffins, and fruit in the breakfast room one morning had traveled from Philadelphia specifically to check out the Magnolia phenomenon. Among the impressions they shared over a cup of coffee that morning was that apart from The Silos experience, Waco seemed to be a surprisingly quiet place.
Each room is appointed with antique bureaus and wardrobes, plenty of good reading light, and luxurious bed and bath linens.
And selfishly, that’s what I found compelling about my visit. Having done the Magnolia thing on another Waco trip, I planned to look around elsewhere—between moments of dedicated relaxing at Migel House.
The 1910 home was the creation of local architect Milton M. Scott, whose Waco work also includes the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Plant, now home to the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute. Among early owners of this imposing Mediterranean-style residence was department store magnate Louis Migel, whose family entertained here in lavish style. The house fell into disrepair in later years along with the mansion next door.
In 2012, Waco businessman Robert Tunmire and his wife, Kitty Tunmire, fell in love with the bones of the house and decided to undertake a restoration. The purchase mandated a package deal of both old mansions, though restoring the second home was finally deemed impossible. Over a two-year period, the couple painstakingly renovated the Migel home and dismantled the other house, keeping pieces that would work in their restoration project. “We wanted to keep the house to its era and did a lot of research for fixtures that kept us in the right time frame,” Kitty says.
Most everything I admired within the home—that’s to say, pretty much everything in the house—is original. Woodwork was pulled down, restored, and reinstalled. Original doorknobs, windows, and numerous fireplaces—once again in pristine condition—adorn the common areas. Original Tiffany light fixtures illuminate the formal dining room. Even the massive bathtubs in two of the suites are original.
Initially, the Tunmires planned to live here, but ultimately they decided they didn’t want to leave their home just outside of town. The solution was establishing a bed-and-breakfast, which opened in September 2014. The Tunmires use it for family gatherings and parties; otherwise, they’re receiving guests from around Texas, the country, and from as far as Canada and Australia.
Most everything I admired within the home—that’s to say, pretty much everything in the house—is original.
Guests find plenty of places to lounge at the Migel House. I especially enjoyed the home’s front and back balconies, perfect for relaxing with a good read or a glass of wine. As there’s a coffee bar in the upstairs parlor, I got up early to take my caffeine outside on the front balcony and watch the boulevard below welcome the morning. There’s also plenty of comfortable seating on a couch and several chairs in the parlor, with a fireplace and a giant TV.
Guests seeking a romantic escape often request the Carriage House, a separate two-story building just across the driveway that’s sort of a miniature of the mansion, crafted from the same brick and bearing the exact façade details. In addition to a living room, bedroom, and walk-in shower, the Carriage House offers a full kitchen.
In the main house, the master suite is called the Louey, complete with heated floors, walk-in shower, and a magnificent tub in the bathroom, along with a giant closet and sitting/office area. The Ivy, where I stayed, is considered the smallest but it’s far from cramped. I had plenty of room to spread out, watch TV, and read from the comfort of an overstuffed chair in one corner. Each room, with soaring ceilings and huge windows, is appointed with antique bureaus and wardrobes, plenty of good reading light, and luxurious bed and bath linens.
The downstairs common areas include parlors and the aforementioned formal dining room, all filled with elegant period antiques. Off the modern kitchen, the breakfast room offers hot meals such as pancakes and egg casseroles, as well as coffee and conversation. In the basement, the original one-lane bowling alley has been restored for guests to use.
At the Waco Hippodrome Theatre, which shows first-run and classic films, I enjoyed its café menu, particularly the grilled cheese sandwich.
My goal of making non-Magnolia discoveries led me on a pleasant walk two blocks south to Austin Avenue, which is lined with shops and eating and drinking establishments from the residential area and into downtown proper. At Junque Queen’s and Salvage Sisters, which both carry a mixture of refurbished and upcycled furniture, jewelry, knickknacks, and table wares, I picked up a vintage wine bucket for $8 and a dainty pearl necklace for $20. Nearby, French country antiques fill every nook and cranny inside Papillon Antiques.
Austin Avenue also provided delicious finds: Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, tucked inside a beautifully renovated 1920s shotgun space downtown, serves handmade coffee drinks and craft cocktails starring house-made bitters. At the Waco Hippodrome Theatre, which shows first-run and classic films, I enjoyed its café menu, particularly the grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and fried green tomatoes. For dinner one night at a steakhouse called DiamondBack’s, I devoured a generous appetizer plate of Cajun-style fried oysters from a perch at the bar.
On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by The Wine Shoppe, a welcoming wine bar with large picture windows, a big leather sofa on which to sip, and shelves of interesting retail wines. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Migel House, so I’m already imagining a return visit with my husband; we’ll share a bottle of wine on the hotel’s back balcony and watch the sun fall from the Waco sky.