Marfa couple keeps history alive and beautiful at the Paisano
By Helen Anders
When Joe and Lanna Duncan bought El Paisano Hotel in a foreclosure auction in 2001, the historic Marfa hotel, which opened in 1930, had fallen into such ruin that windows were boarded up and “you could see daylight through the roof,” Lanna remembers.
The town constable was living in the hotel to try to keep it from getting looted.
Now, the beautifully restored Spanish baroque hotel, designed around a courtyard by architect Henry C. Trost, plays host to celebrities, just as it did when it housed some of the cast of “Giant” nearly 60 years ago.
That’s why the Society of American Travel Writers recently chose the Duncans to receive its Phoenix Award for conservation, preservation, beautification and environmental accomplishments. Huge fans of historic properties, the Duncans also own El Capitan, also designed in the ’30s by Trost, in nearby Van Horn. For 50 years they owned the Limpia, a 1912 restored hotel in Fort Davis. They sold it last year.
“It took off right away,” Joe says. “We just kept working at it one wing at a time.”
The hotel has 41 lovely rooms, and they just finished renovating the dining room.
“With a historic building, it’s always crumbling,” Joe says, to which his wife adds, “The goal is to renovate more than crumble each year.”