07-16-20 | Feature

An Eclectic Retreat

Dripping Springs, Texas

The resort of Camp Lucy in Dripping Springs, Texas, is under constant improvement and expansion, which is why the owner, Whit Hanks, agreed to hire Paul Smith as his fulltime landscape architect. Currently, work is proceeding on 11 more lodging rooms, a smaller Conference Barn, and a new bridge over a creek.
Architectural antiques collected by Hanks are a large part of the appeal of the site. For instance, Ian's Chapel is a 200-year-old catholic church from Vietnam that was disassembled over there and reassembled once it arrived. The roof tiles were purchased by Hanks in Guanajuato, Mexico, which is famous for them. Smith specified rotators and controllers with rain sensors for large areas of Tif Bermuda grass and for shrub beds. Drip irrigation was used for the narrower plant beds such as raised planters.
The building for Tillie's, the resort's restaurant, is 150 years old and was originally a town hall, also from Vietnam. The majority of the stone used around the site was extracted from the site itself.
Live oaks, post oaks and blackjack oaks have been preserved, giving the site a look of establishment. In the foreground is the largest escarpment live oak in Hays County. The pavers are clay bricks.
This paving is made from Texas limestone and stone from the steps of one of the Vietnamese churches. The wall is Texas cavestone, which is limestone that had water seep between its layers, embedding quartz crystals in it. The planter is a solid stone bathtub that was carved in China.
Smith designed the pool with glass tiles along the waterline perimeter. The planters/fountains have native fieldstone facings and Lueders, a Texas limestone, used for their caps and coping. There is also an outdoor kitchen and a swim-up bar.
The propane firepit, from The Outdoor Plus, is made with glass fiber reinforced concrete, colored to resemble a woodgrain finish.

Camp Lucy is a Texas Wine Country Resort in Dripping Springs, Texas.  Located in the Texas Hill Country, this 300-acre property has been in the Hanks Family for several generations and has garnered national acclaim for its impressive venues, luxury lodging accommodations, fine dining restaurant, resort pool, gardens of native landscaping, nature trails and more.

The Camp is known as a wedding venue but also hosts corporate retreats, company meetings, music festivals, family reunions and family and couple weekend getaways.

A Fulltime Calling
"I began working on this project 12 years ago, when Whit Hanks, who I had worked with on previous commercial and residential projects, started the resort on the family property," recalls Paul Smith, a landscape architect who first helped develop the camp as a member of the firm, RVI.

It became his favorite project because of all the intricacies involved so he convinced Hanks to hire him as the resort's fulltime landscape architect and now has worked in that capacity for 7 years through the expansion and growth of Camp Lucy. 

"Our style is very eclectic; a mix of architectural styles and great attention paid to detail, incorporating our native limestone and cedar (also known as Ashe Juniper) into the design," Smith says.


He adds, "I have a dream job that allows me to incorporate my many interests and experience into the design.  Whit and his wife Kim, allow me the responsibility of fulfilling their vision for Camp Lucy, which is always being improved, expanded and constructed.  I not only do the site planning, landscape design and irrigation, but am also the lead designer for the buildings, lighting and property systems, working with architects, structural engineers, interior designers and skilled tradesmen and craftsmen to complete the projects."

Interesting Elements
Hanks collects architectural antiques, which get incorporated into Camp Lucy.  For instance, some of the structures are old buildings from Vietnam where they got disassembled, then shipped to the camp and reassembled. There is also a 200-year-old Amish barn from Ohio, and a pole barn that was built on the property 60 years ago and was repurposed as lodging. 

"Old and antique buildings are a challenge to work with, but the results are gratifying and awe-inspiring," enthuses Smith. "Working on-property allows me the ability to preserve our trees and natural environment. Sensitive site design and stewardship of property are critical to the setting of Camp Lucy." 

Creating the Mood
The site is really only about ten years old but it looks like it is over 50 according to Smith, which he partially attributes to the setting that the trees provide, as well as earthy materials like clay brick and lots of stone, 95 percent of which he estimates is from out of the property.

Dario Camacho, a local stonemason, is responsible for a lot of the work.
"We trained him with our style," Smith says. "Instead of trying to get real tight fitted stones, we would take the big stones and stuff them with fossils we would find, pieces of tile and small stones. This area of Texas was a shallow ocean millions of years ago. That is where all our limestone comes from. And there are areas where I can walk along our gravel roads and find fossils of clams and snails. So, when I find them we incorporate them into the stonework where they are going to be seen. We call this style 'Dario Style.' New masons will look at it and mimic it."

Another artisan that Smith mentions is Brian Duma of Wimberley Gate in Wimberley, Texas, a welder whose work has included hand rails, railings and fence structures.

Keeping it Sustainable
Of the more than 300 acres, the heavily maintained landscape area is probably less than five acres according to Smith, because even though the plantings are mainly native, they still require water, which is not a commodity in surplus. To help with irrigation, there is some facility for rainwater capture on the property.

One of the newest venues is a vineyard with four varietals. Besides holding events nearby, there is a harvest, usually at the end of August, that guests can participate in.
Summing up, Smith states, "One of the driving design ideas is that we want to create spaces that offer 'Kodak moments' for everyone. And every wedding is different. We provide the basics and they'll come in and add more lighting and festoons. It's a very flexible space.

"It's attention to details that make the place magical. We mix Asian with Mexican with English garden with just all kinds of styles - just a very eclectic mix of styles. Whit wants a bride to feel like she is in wonderland."

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2020.


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