Our third visit in this six-part series is to the Perry Mansion in Terlingua Ghost Town. One glimpse of the nighttime sky, and you'll ask: Why did everybody leave?
Cozy Up, Texas: The Perry Mansion
Article by Vincent Friedewald; Photos by Caleb Kerr
The next stop on our Cozy Up, Texas photo tour series is the Perry Mansion in Terlingua Ghost Town, in far West Texas. There are few places anywhere in the U.S. like Terlingua, and there are fewer places still like the Perry Mansion. How often can you say you’ve spent the night among the ruins of a ghost town? Here’s your chance.
A special note: Absent from our tour are photos of the Perry Mansion’s interior, comprised of two small guest rooms and a shared bathroom. The interior was undergoing renovations at the time of our visit, so we’ve decided to focus our photo efforts on the exterior. This happens to be the most interesting part of the Mansion anyway, and our omission leaves you with a little extra something to discover on your own when you visit.
Name: The Perry Mansion
Location: Terlingua, Texas
Overview: A ghost town mansion in ruins, with the exception of two renovated guest rooms, available for overnight stays. Owned by amiable local Bill Ivey and his wife Lisa, the Perry Mansion sits on a hilltop in the Terlingua Ghost Town, which is situated just north of the Rio Grande between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park. To experience the Perry Mansion is to experience a microcosm of Terlingua itself: abandoned with a mysterious past, yet still very much alive—and just as mysterious in the present.
Appreciate: The opportunity for a one-of-a-kind adventure. If you’re inspired by travel where getting there is itself a challenge; where the locals are like characters from a movie; where the landscape looks like a lunar surface; where ghost town artifacts are strewn about the town as if they were dropped just yesterday; and where you’re at risk from isolation, heat, rattlesnakes, and any number of other wild west perils, you’ll love your visit to Terlingua. There are several lodging places, including other rooms owned by Bill Ivey under the moniker of Big Bend Holiday Hotel. But the Perry Mansion is certainly the most adventurous place to stay.
Know: The history here. The Perry Mansion was the private residence of Howard Perry, a Chicagoan and owner of the Chisos Mining Company. Between 1903 and 1943, the Chisos Mining Company was a flourishing mining operation that extracted the local cinnabar (the basis for mercury, also known as quicksilver) from the reddish surrounding landscape. Perry rarely stayed in the Mansion before the mining operations ceased altogether and Terlingua was mostly abandoned. The mansion fell into ruin, and remains in that condition today. Only the two guest rooms at the back corner of the property have been restored.
Notably Cozy: The Veranda. You won’t spend much time in your rooms, although they’re certainly very comfortable: the upstairs room features two queen beds, the downstairs one king. Both rooms have a private sink, but share the downstairs bathroom. There’s no TV or WiFi, so beyond your nap you’ll most likely move out to the Veranda. Enjoy a Terlingua Wild Golden Ale as the desert sun sets, and settle in to watch the brilliant show of stars emerge overhead.
Nearby: Just up the road from Terlingua Ghost Town is La Kiva, a quirky bar once named the most bizarre bar to visit before you die by GQ Magazine, and one of the top 50 bars in the U.S. by Mens Journal. In August 2014, La Kiva was purchased by a British couple, John and Josie Holroyd, following an uncertain future that accompanied the tragic death of its former owner. As of this writing, La Kiva is poised for reopening, and should be in full swing by the time you arrive. In town, stock up on beer and other provisions at Terlingua Trading Company, also owned by Bill and Lisa Ivey. Next door, have dinner at the Starlight Theatre, and in the morning, take a reverent sunrise walk through the cemetery.
Special Comments: Some of the locals in Terlingua are very private people, and others still can be a little unwelcoming of tourists. Proprietor Bill Ivey and his wife Lisa are friendly people; deal with them directly, and you shouldn’t have any problems with your booking. Otherwise, always expect the unexpected in Terlingua.
Rates: $245 per night
The Perry Mansion sits on a private drive secluded behind the rest of the Ghost Town.
The westward facing side illuminated as the sun sets, and in the background to the east, the Chisos Mountains. On the right side of the photo, you can see part of the Ghost Town.
No, seriously. There are venomous snakes—be careful.
"¿What's goin' on up here?"
While the main portion of the mansion is still in ruins, the long covered Veranda is available for your use. Enjoy the view, or put together a game of Texas Hold 'Em.
Sun-scorched earth and sun-scorched buildings are plentiful here.
To the left, the renovated rooms in which you can stay. To the right, the mansion ruins. In the center, the veranda.
East-facing porches are made for watching sunrises and drinking coffee. This one will not disappoint.
The entrance to the rooms in a sheltered walkway between the two parts of the mansion.
A good old fashioned Texas welcome.
Texas is known for beautiful sunsets, but you haven't seen the best of them until you visit West Texas.
Spending time at the Mansion is wonderful, but don't forget to explore the rest of Terlingua Ghost Town. A very short walk will take you to the Starlight Theatre.
Before dinner, leave plenty of time to enjoy a West Texas beer—like Terlingua Gold from Big Bend Brewing Co.—on the front porch of the Starlight Theatre with the locals.
A burger with a fried egg and avocado. Not pulled from the standard menu, but the waitstaff were happy to oblige the request.
Meet The Honorable Clay Henry, the famous beer-drinking dead goat and Honorary Mayor of Lajitas, TX. He used to be a living beer-drinking goat, but that's a story for another day.
Near the Perry Mansion is a chapel where birds make themselves at home, coming in and out through the open door and windows.
The beautiful graveyard is best explored at sunrise or sunset. The calmness (and coolness) with the sun low on the horizon only adds to the somber feel of the ancient wooden crosses and piles of stones, all slowly blending back into the earth from the relentless West Texas sun.