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, has 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 conference space, and Gay’s art studio. Featuring one-of-a-kind architecture blurring the lines between outdoor and indoors, 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 the 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 backward! 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 the Rio Grande.
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!).
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.
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.
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.