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Style and Stories from the Ranch:

An Afternoon with Gay Gaddis

Perhaps the title should be Style, Stories and Substance at the Ranch, but the Substance of businesswoman, artist, author and philanthropist Gay Gaddis has been well documented.  I was there for the Style and got lucky with a side serving of Stories.

Gay, founder of Austin’s venerated T3 Advertising Agency, and her husband
Lee, former T3 Chief Operating Officer, have been living on their 1000-acre Hill
Country ranch outside of Burnet for the last several months, and I was invited out to visit.  Gay and Lee come from old Texas families – Lee is a Maltsberger, as in Jones-Maltsberger road in San Antonio, and Gay grew up in tiny Liberty, Texas, the third-oldest city in the state

The property is named Double Heart Ranch, which is the first story I’ll share.  Lee’s grandfather, George Washington Maltsberger, was a trail rider, moving people from the east coast to settle in Texas.  He was engaged to a young lady named Roxanne.  When George rode ahead of the group to scout, he would carve a heart into a tree for Roxanne to see.  When she came along, she’d carve her own heart, connecting it with a bar. Once they settled near San Antonio they created the Double Heart brand, which was re-instated by the Gaddis Family.  Isn’t that adorable???

So back to Style. In 1999, award-winning architectural firm Danze & Blood Architects, designed a unique home and guest house for the Gaddis family on Double Heart Ranch. Then, in 2019, they returned to expand the space to include indoor and outdoor entertaining and living spaces to create Fossil Ridge Creative Center . Surrounded by an expansive 2,000-square foot deck overlooking a dramatic canyon filled with 80-100 million year old marine fossils indigenous to the region, Fossil Ridge includes Lee’s office, an open catering kitchen, an art gallery with a mobile wall that converts to a conference space and Gay’s art studio. Featuring one-of-a-kind architecture blurring the lines between outdoor and indoors, the space was created as a gathering place for intimate events, art openings and retreats. 

Unlike their other homes which were decorated in collaboration with Austin’s Mark Ashby (she was his first true design client!), Gay picked out every stitch of furniture, paint color and finish in the new Fossil Ridge expansion.  I love Gay’s style for the combination of history, quality and deep personality.  Everything in the space has meaning and a story behind it. 

The painting below has a great story.  Before inhabiting the iconic neoclassical building on Lamar, T3 owned a series of buildings on Rio Grande.  One was a rickety old garage that they decided to tear down to allow for more parking.  As they tore down walls, they discovered this spectacular painting behind the boards, hidden not only by the boards but facing backwards!  Someone really wanted to hide it.  Over the years they’ve tried to read the signature and haven’t been able to track down the artist, but it remains a treasured remembrance of their good-old-days on Rio Grande. 

The credenza below it is from a Parisian hotel, found at Whit Hanks.

Gay and Lee collect antique religious icons, mostly from Mexico.

The credenza below it is from a Parisian hotel, found at Whit Hanks.

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A Home Filled with History

As I mentioned, the Gaddis family has a long history in Texas, represented by some beautiful family drawings below.   This story starts during and after the depression, the Works Progress Administration commissioned local artists to create murals for post offices as a way to keep artists working (let’s do this again!). 

This drawing is of Dinomito, Lee’s mother Isabel Gaddis’ horse, which was used as a model by the artist Howard Cook for his mural at the San Antonio post office.

Gay asks, “What’s missing from this picture?” After staring for several seconds I admitted I had no idea. “No bridle”, she says. Think about it…no bridle on a galloping horse. Yikes.

This drawing is of Dinomito, Lee’s mother Isabel Gaddis’ horse, which was used as a model by the artist Howard Cook for his mural at the San Antonio post office.

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An Artist’s Eye Throughout

Gay was involved in every aspect of the building and design, and you’ll find beautiful and functional design throughout all five structures. 

Look how brilliant this hidden fold-out stool is! There are three in the kitchen.

A vintage stool, reupholstered in Pierre Frey by Austin’s Spruce Upholstery.

Look how brilliant this hidden fold-out stool is! There are three in the kitchen.

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Advertising to Art

Gay attended the University of Texas and graduated with a Fine Arts Degree studying with, among others, famed street photographer Garry Winogrand.  So art is in her soul, although she practiced it with a commercial bent for most of her career.  Now that she has sold her agency, T3 as of last fall, Gay spends time creating visual art, much of it inspired by the skies above Double Heart, as well as the beginnings of a new career in leadership education. With her unstoppable energy, Gay is focused on teaching the next generation of leaders. She's currently developing a leadership program beginning with a series of live leadership webinars she's hosting this summer. All are hosted virtually from her art gallery at Double Heart Ranch tapping into lessons from her book, Cowgirl Power, and over 30 years leading T3. More about her leadership programming can be found here

Gay's elliptical studio, with wraparound windows.

It's hard not to be inspired in a place like this!

Sweet Rice the border collie and champion herder “shepherded” us on our tour.

Gay's elliptical studio, with wraparound windows.

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One Final Story

I didn't actually get to see it, but apparently Gay and Lee own  former President Lyndon Johnson's old boat, one in which he spent hours gleefully evading the Secret Service on what was then Lake Granite Shoals. 

Lee and Gay tell the story in detail in this Texas Country Reporter segment,  but the gist is that he found it on Craigslist  several years ago and spent 10 months refurbishing it back to its original condition.  They finally were able to launch it back on Lake LBJ, where it originally hit the water back in 1961.  

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Thanks Gay and Lee, I'm looking forward to another afternoon full of stories!