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Camp Lucy offers more than just weddings

Venue brings history to life

By Brittany Anderson
brittany@haysfreepress.com

DRIPPING SPRINGS — There’s more than meets the eye at Camp Lucy, a wedding and special events venue nestled on nearly 300 acres of Hill Country land in Dripping Springs. 

There’s a story at every turn here, thanks to owners Whit and Kim Hanks. Whit, a former antiques dealer, and Kim, a former events planner, have injected history and personality into every corner of the property — from the floor and roof tiles to the friendly alpacas next to the check-in center. 

The story of Camp Lucy, in Whit’s eyes, weaves his interest in antiques and architecture with his family. 

Years ago, his son Ian was an East Asian studies major and Princeton scholar, working with Princeton graduates in Shanghai, China. Whit would travel to visit him frequently, and one trip led them to the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, a city known for its French Colonial history. 

Photo by Brittany Anderson
Camp Lucy is full of picturesque spots with sprawling Hill Country views.

Whit mainly dealt in French and Spanish antiques, so Hanoi opened up a whole new world of antiques from this era. Whit began buying and sending back Vietnamese French Colonial pieces he found to Texas before stumbling upon some that would eventually become cornerstones of Camp Lucy, including thousands of handmade orange tiles bearing a heart-shaped symbol that inspired the property’s logo and pieces of 19th-century churches that were set to be destroyed.  

Whit’s second son Roger lived in China with Ian for a period of time. Through his children and finding antiques in Vietnam, he became “intertwined” with Asia, calling it a “really rich experience.” 

In 2011, Ian died from a brain tumor. While the process of bringing antiques back began around 2007-08, Whit believes that Ian’s death is at the heart of everything they do, even naming the first structure on the property, the chapel, after him. Now, Ian’s Chapel is a beloved staple and host to weddings and more.  

“This whole kind of surreal world that my life entered — when you lose a son, you’re so mixed up,” Whit said. “You don’t even know anything. You’re so confused. So I really went on a whole different bizarre life path that’s resulted from his death, that I think is the reason we’re here.” 

Transporting antiques of this size to Texas over several trips and years was no easy feat. Whit had to navigate cultural differences and language barriers with customs agents, as well as coordinate help with local villages to get the antiques onto massive shipping containers and to the port. 

He also faced other unprecedented challenges, like some pieces being wrapped in contaminated rice straw that caused them to be sent back to Vietnam and re-packed after they arrived in the U.S. with unknowingly forged fumigation papers. 

The process of constructing Ian’s Chapel wasn’t easy either. Built from iron wood, one of the strongest and heaviest woods, Whit and his team reassembled the structure piece-by-piece using an intricate mapping system. 

But for Whit, persevering is half the fun. 

“You really have to think of it as, ‘What’s the end goal here?’ We’re just pressing on until we get to where we need to go,” Whit said with a smile. “You just have to roll with it. It’s part of the joy of it.”  

The property that Camp Lucy sits on belonged to Whit’s parents Roger and Lucy as their weekend place. While he did not intend for the antiques he was sending back to be turned into anything significant but be a “folly,” that changed when Kim entered the picture in 2008. 

After meeting at a Christmas party and being invited out to visit Camp Lucy, Kim was able to see some of the process of rebuilding the chapel. Eventually, she convinced Whit that it could be used as a wedding venue and their life together blossomed from there. 

The first wedding was held at Ian’s Chapel in 2010. Since then, the property has expanded to include: 

• A second wedding venue (Sacred Oaks) and reception halls

• A permanent tent structure for weddings and other events at the on-site vineyard

• Three different family-friendly and corporate-friendly lodging options

• An on-site restaurant called Tillie’s with food crafted by renowned chef Andy Knudson, along with a variety of amenities and activities. 

The Hanks are also in the process of building a spa on the property, aiming for completion by February 2024. Of course, this building will incorporate many of their signature Vietnamese antiques, including iron wood timbers seen in Ian’s Chapel and Tillie’s and ceiling arches with hand-carved Hindu folktales. 

The history found on Camp Lucy doesn’t end with the Vietnam antiques. A repurposed 1800s Amish barn from Ohio, repurposed roof tiles from the Bexar County Courthouse, a variety of pieces picked up at Austin antique shows and more can all be found on the property, bringing unique charm and character for guests that bear personal connections to the Hanks. 

The Hankses’ infatuation with history and hospitality has even led them overseas to Malmesbury, England, where they were regular visitors before becoming owners of the Old Bell Hotel, which is said to be the oldest hotel in England. Serendipitously enough, the hotel was previously owned by some of Whit’s relatives hundreds of years ago. 

Through this venture, Kim and Whit’s drive to be challenged and create a cohesive hospitality experience is evident and is at the core of their being both as employers and a couple. 

“I don’t even know if we’re interested in doing things that are easy,” Kim said. “I think if it’s too easy, we’re like, ‘Pass.’ We want to do something unique and something we can put our own stamp on. I think there has to be an element that piques our curiosity. It has to be something that we haven’t done before. … I think that’s the challenge of life.”  

“I think we both like to stretch ourselves and we like to create opportunities that we can share,” she added. 

From bringing in people from all walks of life to help cultivate their creative ideas and nurturing the company culture for their employees, the Hanks have set themselves apart from others in the hospitality business — and are always planning their next adventure while never passing up an opportunity to find a story and celebrate it. 

Camp Lucy is located at 3509 Creek Road in Dripping Springs. For more information on booking the venue for a wedding, corporate or personal event or to take a tour of the property, visit www.camplucy.com. 

About Author

Brittany Anderson graduated from Texas State University in August 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She previously worked at KTSW 89.9, Texas State University's radio station, for nearly two years in the web content department as a writer and assistant manager. She has reported for the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch since July 2021.

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