History of D'Hanis Texas and J.M. Koch's Hotel
“Old” D’Hanis, which is just over a mile east of what travelers today regard as D’Hanis, was Henri Castro’s third settlement in Texas and was named to honor his European agent, William D'Hanis. When it was formed in 1847, twenty-nine Alsatian families formed the nucleus of the town. Each family was given a twenty-acre farm and a town lot. In 1850 the entire town was a mere twenty buildings and when compared to safe and secure Castroville, D’Hanis was a primitive and crude outpost. Two years after the settlers arrived, Fort Lincoln was established to protect them from frequent Indian raids. Several tombstones in the old cemetery testify to the violence.
A post office was granted in 1854. The town became a stage stop along the San Antonio-Rio Grande road and St. Dominic Church was formed in 1847. The church building was abandoned in 1914 when the congregation moved to New D’Hanis. The sandstone arches that form the ruin seen today are from the original construction of 1853. Other stones are from an 1869 extension. The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway built through Medina County in 1881 and bypassed the town creating “New” D’Hanis (a mile and a fraction west) in the process. By 1890 the community contained four general stores, one saloon, and a flour and grist mill, and by 1896 two hotels served the community.
From the outside the J.M Koch Hotel, which used to be an old railroad hotel, is one of a vanishing breed of Texas frontier buildings, but on the inside it's a comfortable guest house with modern conveniences. The transcontinental railroad from the Gulf Coast to California arrived in 1881. J.M. Koch built his first wooden hotel in 1898. Six years later he replaced it with a new structure built with locally made bricks.
The new Koch Hotel (pronounced "cook") has five rooms, each one appointed with antiques from the Victorian era. The rooms have a private bath but no phone. The building's three porches offer ideal places to catch a breeze and relax. A full breakfast is served on weekends from a menu often decided by the guests. "It's always all-you-can-eat," Hilo says.
"Bring a good book and come to relax," Candy, who was raised in Iowa, advises. Bill and Rosa's KK Saloon and Steakhouse at the other end of the main drag from the hotel provides a good dining choice. The general store and meat market between the two sells the essentials. The brick factory does not offer public tours, but you can drive by and see the beehive-shaped kilns surrounded by stacks of bricks and tiles.
There might not be much to do in D'Hanis, but the town makes a centrally located base camp for exploring the area. "We have lots of motorcyclists stay with us," Hilo says. The border towns of Del Rio and Laredo are about two hours away. There are some great little antique shops in neighboring towns, and nearby Sabinal has a mesquite-furniture maker that is one of the best in the state.
The back roads north of D'Hanis are some of the most beautiful drives in the state. FM 462 from Hondo to FM 470 west to Vanderpool is extraordinary. "It's like being in the Rockies," Hilo says. The hotel is also only about 25 minutes from swimming holes on the Frio River. A good thing to remember this fall when the maple leaves turn golden at Lost Maples State Park is that the hotel is only 45 minutes away.
Whether for a relaxing getaway or as a base camp, one of the best things about the Koch Hotel is that it is very affordable.
Koch Hotel Bed & Breakfast