Santa Ana Starts It
|In 1833, just three years before he would enjoy a temporary victory over the Texian rebels at the Alamo and then get his comeuppance at San Jacinto, the President of Mexico, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, directed engineer Peter Gallagher to establish a military supply depot in the rolling hills northwest of San Antonio. Thus begins the story of the Gallagher Ranch.|
Peter Gallagher Builds It
Peter Gallagher hailed from County Westmeath, Ireland and immigrated to New Orleans at the tender age of 17. There he learned the art of stonemasonry, then at the behest of Santa Ana, moved on to San Antonio and eventually established the Gallagher Ranch. His work lives on in the timeless limestone structures that define the Ranch Headquarters. Gallagher also used his skill to fashion a system of extraordinary limestone acequias (irrigation channels) that carried the waters of San Geronimo Creek throughout the ranch.
|Frequent forays by Lipan Apaches and Penateka Comanches required fortification of Ranch Headquarters, resulting in massive stone walls punctuated by narrow rifle ports which now serve a more peaceful purpose — shelter for nesting birds and flowering plants.|
Mama Mac Makes it Famous
The years passed and The Ranch endured. World War II roused patriotism on the home front, so now Peter Gallagher’s elegant acequias irrigated a Victory Garden planted by Amy Shelton McNutt, pioneer, self-made millionaire and The Gallagher’s owner for most of the 20th century.
The Ranch proved itself fit for royalty - Grace Kelly was a guest.
With characteristic daring, Mrs. McNutt (“Mama Mac” to her cowboys) reinvented The Gallagher as the first dude ranch in Texas, maintaining it as a place of imagination and world-class comfort for over 40 years. Celebrities flocked to enjoy the Wild West charms of the Ranch, which inspired the creators of studio art, literature, journalism, film, and choreography.
Mr. Ziegfeld's Troupe livened up The Gallagher in 1928.
Orson Welles. Actor, writer, director and guest at The Ranch.
It was also valued by pampered Hollywood as a discreet pied-a-terre while awaiting a divorce. Many handsome ranch hands succumbed to the charms of newly single stars and traded the Texas hills for Beverly Hills, a chronic aggravation for Mama Mac.
King of Sweden, Gustaf VI Adolf experienced the American West at The Gallagher.
The ranch continues to attract the artistically gifted and the celebrated — its Hollywood connection continued into the 21st century when it was used as a location for “All the Pretty Horses.”
Chris Hill Brings It to Life
A series of remarkable people has passed on the vision of Gallagher Ranch stewardship, one to another, right up to the current owner, Christopher Hill. Unique as a fusion of owner/architect/designer/host and entrepreneur, Chris Hill maintains the tradition of respect for the environment and for those who came before him. In partnership with The Nature Conservancy and to honor his mother, he has designated over 700 acres of Ranch property as the Elizabeth Hill Preserve, providing refuge and protection for endangered birds, native plant species and the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.
His meticulous restorations and improvements to The Gallagher reflect Chris’s dedication and affection for the Ranch. As an accomplished architect, he has a rare ability to appreciate the historical, technical and aesthetic needs of the structures, as well as the vulnerable landscape that encircles them.
Supporting the arts and other causes continues to be a primary focus at The Gallagher. Over the years, The Ranch has hosted many stellar events benefiting ARTPACE, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation and other worthy causes. An epic “Cattle Baron’s Ball” attracted large and passionate crowds, even by Texas standards, and raised a big-hearted contribution for medical research.
Often teased by close friends that he “thinks the Hill Country was named after him”, Chris is, in reality, a hard-working entrepreneur with many irons in the fire, including revitalization of The Esquire Tavern, the oldest bar on San Antonio’s renowned Riverwalk. The Esquire was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2012. He is also a skilled, unruffled jet pilot, and as the insightful steward of The Gallagher legacy, a generous philanthropist and natural-born host.