Laity Lodge, a place we all love, is changing. There is an undeniable emotional component to this work—every time we visit the Canyon these days, we’re stopped in our tracks by the ghostly (yet blessedly temporary!) ruins of the old Lodge. At the same time, excitement is mounting for seeing this work through. The legacy of the Lodge is one of deep, theologically informed hospitality, practiced in place and within community. None of that is changing. Yet we are crafting new spaces designed to enhance the ways in which these convictions get played out.
We cannot wait to inhabit these spaces with you from week to week. For now, we we have several interesting updates to report, including a surprise in the Lodge’s walls and some plans in and around Cedar Brake.
Stone Wall Surprises
When we began the renovation of Laity Lodge last fall, we thought of the project as just that: a renovation and refresh of the motel-like building that houses our guests. (Note that it does not include the Great Hall or Dining Room, which are not being altered significantly.) But then we began the work of the renovation, and discovered that something more was needed. In fact, we found that what is required is a near-complete rebuild.
A few weeks ago, we published an interview with Glenn Echols in which he said, “It’s a bit unusual for a remodel to get to this point in the demolition and not really have found many surprises.” That was true. We had the original drawings of the building plan in hand, and for the most part they were quite accurate. But as we continued to do the work, we made a surprising discovery: the stone walls throughout the Lodge were hollow.
This significant detail was not reflected in the original drawings. Once discovered, we consulted with our engineers. It became apparent that those stone walls could not function as load-bearing, structural elements. They had to be removed. This decision represents a marked shift from our original intent of simply renovating the existing building, but it is a decision dictated entirely by the circumstances we encountered.
It does not, however, mean that we are going to build something altogether new. Architect Mark Eubank is adjusting his existing “renovation” plans to allow for new, structural stone walls and a new roof. In fact, we intend to reuse the old stone on the new walls. Neither should these changes drastically lengthen the timeline for the project—we are still aiming for retreats to resume in early 2017.
A New Cedar Brake
Cedar Brake is the small, 6-room building located above the parking lot. It was slated to change all along, because we were relocating some Lodge rooms there to make way for new breezeways. We retained Overland Partners Architects so that the work on Cedar Brake would be concurrent with the Lodge.
The new Cedar Brake will not only serve regular retreat guests at a level consistent with the other lodging options, but will also feature its own common building with a meeting space and kitchen. This will allow us to expand our programming to include micro-retreats of up to 20 guests. It’s exciting to see Cedar Brake come into its own.
The Landscape of Laity Lodge
The other significant development is the level of attention given to the site itself—the entire landscape of Laity Lodge. The more our team talked though the guest experience of the Lodge, the more we realized that, as beloved as our “place” is, the actual land needed some care. A landscape architect with a career’s worth of experience in projects in this region and of this scale is helping us improve the experience and health of our corner of the Frio River Canyon.
Here are a few highlights: an improved parking scheme that transforms the old parking lot into a wildflower and native grass meadow; an updated pathway system that pays special attention to clarity and accessibility; a landscape and plantings plan that enhances the health of our natural ecosystem and promotes a cleaner Frio River.
Every significant project has challenges and surprises, and this one is no different. But we’re also confident that this work is precisely what it needs to be for us to carry forth the legacy and good work of Laity Lodge. We’re excited to be here with you.