The Wooten House (Today known as “Hotel Ella”)
Originally, the Mansion was presented as a wedding gift in 1900 to Goodall and Ella Wooten by Thomas Dudley Wooten, one of the founders of the University of Texas. Goodall and Ella both had a passion for life, and they used the house as a fountain for their new ideas. To give their home a revived spirit of life, Mrs Wooten hired Neiman Marcus in 1929 at a cost of $10,000 to redecorate the home. (over a million dollars in today’s money).
Dr. Goodall Wooten was a community leader and an avid pistol collector. His world renowned collection now resides at the Harry Ransom Research center just two block from UT. It was said of Dr. Wooten by resident Janet Fish “If you were sick, I mean as sick as though you were going to die…as soon as Dr. Wooten walked into the room you felt better. That is the quality that man had.”
Mrs. Ella Wooten pursued her art of hospitality in an unequaled way in Austin. “You always know you are discovering something charming and new in her dishes and her social events. Born in 1878 in McKinney, to a wealthy banking and planting family she married Goodall in 1897. She moved to Austin where she lived until her death in 1972. She and Goodall had two children Lucie and Tom. Ella was active in the life of the Austin Community. During World War 1, she was the chairman of surgical dressings for the Travis County Chapter of the Red Cross. During World War 2 she clocked over 8,000 hours working with the Red Cross. She organized the “Bundles for Britain” project in the pre-Pearl Harbor days of WW II. She was a director for the Texas Fine Art Association and a member of the Brackenridge hospital. She was the first woman to serve on the Austin Chamber of Commerce. An avid gardner, she planted the first azalea bushes in the city and eventually had up to 1,800 bushes along with tulips, pansies, zinnias and camelias…the home was famous for it’s garden.
The origins of the Wooten Mansion (now called Hotel Ella) can be traced back to 1846 when the land was granted to Adam Maag by the State of Texas, just one year after it was admitted to the union, March 1, 1945. The City of Austin was founded 8 years later earlier in 1837 and called Waterloo. Dr. Thomas Dudley acquired the land 1887 for $2500 cash.
One interesting fact is that after Adam Maag sold the land to Henry Thomas for $1,200 on April 9, 1856, Thomas held the land 22 years until June 29, 1878 when he sold it to George Linn for $15,000 in gold coins. Included in the sale was 640 acres of land in Clay County, Texas previously owned by the widow of a Alamo hero Almeron Dickinson. Mrs. Dickinson was the only anglo to survive the assault on the Alamo. In 1857, Mrs. Dickinson married Joseph W. Hanning of Lockhart and moved to Austin in 1860 and sold it to DA Bostick.
When Dr. Thomas Dudley Wooten purchased the property on June 2, 1887 from DA Bostick for $2,500 cash, he bought approximately one acre of land at the corner of Magnolia and Rio Grande streets (later Magnolia St became 19th street and later Martin Luther King Blvd) He gave the land and home to be built for his son and new daughter-in-law in 1898. The son Goodall Wooten and his bride picked a highly visible corner of the property where the mansion was to be built. The Wooten’s moved into the their new home on January 20, 1900. The property surrounding the home included an entire city block and was beautifully landscaped with flowers, fruit tress and sculptures. Mrs. Wooten landscaped her lawn with formal gardens containing wisterias, azaleas, tulips, large formal rose garden with central fountain, as well as an aviary with parakeets.
After Mrs. Wooten’s passed in 1972, the home changed ownership multiple times and fell into some disrepair. In the 1980’s the home was even used as a alcohol rehab center. Today the house is beautifully restored to it’s former glory and is the highly regarded boutique hotel known as “Hotel Ella”.