The first destination in our six-part photo tour series is The Cell Block, a former jail turned amazing boutique hotel in Clifton, Texas.
Cozy Up, Texas: The Cell Block
Article by Vincent Friedewald; Photos by Caleb Kerr
We kick of our six-part Cozy Up, Texas photo tour series with a visit to The Cell Block, a brand new hotel in Clifton, Texas. Proprietor Kaye Johnson has transformed an abandoned city jail from a cold, stoney ruin into a warm and alluring refuge. Where town drunks and ruffians were once forced to spend the night in captivity, you’ll willingly lock yourself in and enjoy the thoughtful comforts of this special little corner of Texas. Call it voluntary confinement; call it intentional incarceration; call it upscale custody: here’s your chance to spend a memorable weekend in jail.
Notes from our visit are immediately below, followed by an exclusive photo tour.
Name: The Cell Block
Location: Clifton, Texas
Overview: Authentic small town jail cell turned one-bedroom, one-bath boutique hotel. A comfortable living room, in the space where the jailers once kept watch, plus a rooftop deck called the Prison Yard complete the space.
Appreciate: The details. Thoughtfulness to the guest experience is apparent at every turn, with particularly creative references to life behind bars. The shower soap is branded “Don’t Drop.” A record player plays only records about prison (like Johnny Cash’s Live from Folsom Prison, and Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock). A complimentary map of the area is called “Escape in Clifton”. And there’s even a set of heavy solid metal handcuffs: the real thing, they're unlocked only by the keys, graciously provided.
Know: For forty years, the property served as the city jail for Clifton, holding the drunks and the disorderly town folk until morning. The interior is essentially a cleaned up, well decorated version of the original, so if you appreciate history and authenticity, you’ll be enamored by the space. The heavy steel cell doors are the same ones that locked in the prisoners; only a few bars had to be replaced in the restoration. Another authentic touch is a set of handmade long leaf pine dominoes, by Sean Forkner of Austin. Playing dominoes was a favorite pastime by the Clifton jailers, who were known to include their prisoners in a game or two, from time to time.
Notably Cozy: The entire interior, of course, scores a 10 out of 10 on the coziness scale. Coziness is largely a product of feeling safe and secure, and the infrastructure of a former jail communicates these qualities quite well. But we also felt especially cozy on the roof deck. Beneath cafe string lights you can sit beside the fire pit, sipping on the complimentary whiskey by Balcones Distilling, or the privately labeled Tempranillo wine by Red Caboose Winery.
Nearby: Immediately out the front door, you can admire the works of the surrounding Clifton Art Alley. These are a series of buildings extending down the block featuring facades decorated with brightly colored murals. A few blocks further, you’ll find Mitchell’s Grill, which is also owned by The Cell Block’s Kaye Johnson. Like The Cell Block, the restaurant occupies a historic space, once a Sinclair gas service station. Enjoy ribeye bruschetta, and grilled pork chops with raspberry peach chipotle glaze, before turning yourself back into a jailbird for the night.
Special Comments: Clifton, Texas is a mere 35 miles from Waco, home of Baylor University. Consider The Cell Block as a great lodging alternative for Bears football games; as of this writing, they’ve got five home games remaining this season, and if you’re lucky (and fast at booking reservations), you can celebrate your victories behind bars, rather than at the bars.
Rates: $155 per night, Monday-Thursday; $175, Friday-Sunday
You enter The Cell Block into a quaint and comfortable living area. A bulletin board displays photos of past guests. A Polaroid camera is provided; take your own mug shot, and memorialize your stay on the wall.
Immediately to the right of the living area are your private bathroom, and the adjacent bedroom. The original steel cell bars can be closed and locked from the outside.
Solid steel hinged window coverings are affixed to each window. You'll want to make use of these at night, as curious passersby are known to try to peek in.
A bottle of Tempranillo red wine, and a small serving of Balcones Texas Whisky, are provided for your enjoyment.
Keys are provided for the handcuffs, but be careful—there's no automatic release.
To enhance your stay: cell log books (with blank pages for your notes), pens, matches, and a helpful map of Clifton.
Teak-oiled dominoes made of long leaf pine with ebony inlays allow you to feel like one of the occupants of days past. The jailers would play dominoes with each other, or if there was only one of them, they would sometimes play with the prisoner.
The bedroom features a comfy Tempurpedic queen bed, and smart looking side tables by Petrified Design of Austin, Texas.
The bathroom is bright and open; you'll drench yourself beneath the rain shower shower head, and dry off with a resort-like fluffy towel.
Translucent glass covers the original steel cell bars, separating the bathroom and bedroom.
The Roof Deck, aka, the Prison Yard.
The view below, to the neighboring Clifton Art Alley.