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A Historical Tour Around the Square

East Side of the Square

Jeff Rylee Building
122 North Crockett
This native limestone structure was built in 1907 on the site of an old livery stable by prominent Granbury citizen, Jeff Rylee. Rylee’s parents were early Hood County settlers, arriving in this area in the late 1850’s. Rylee leased this building to the Gordon-Oxford Furniture Company and Undertakers. The firm’s licensed mortician was a woman, Edith Oxford Gordon. The Granbury Masonic Lodge chartered in 1874, purchased this building in the mid-1930s. The Lodge continues to use the building’s second floor as it’s meeting hall. Notice this building’s heavy stone parapet that contains Jeff Rylee’s name and the construction date. There is a patented iron threshold at the entrance bearing Rylee’s name.

Thomason Building
118 North Crockett
The small lot where this building now stands was vacant for many years. This building was constructed in the mid 1940s for Herman D. Thomason, who was a partner in the Goforth-Thomason Hardware Store. Thomason was from nearby Tolar and he was a schoolteacher for many years. Thomanson’s daughter said that he had this building constructed because he didn’t like to see empty lots on the Town Square.
The Thomason Building’s first occupant was the Granbury Dress Manufacturing Co., established in 1943. The dress manufacturing company’s sewing machines were located in the lower level of the Masonic Lodge Building next door. After the Thomason Building was completed, the dress manufacturing company used it for storage of dresses and equipment. In 1944, the dress manufacturing company’s payroll was $1,000 per week, and each week its employees churned out 80 dozen “Marcy Lee” dresses. The completed dresses were picked up by large trucks and taken to Dallas, where they were distributed to retailers throughout the country. All of the women who worked at the dress manufacturing company were from Hood County. In October 1944, the Hood County Tablet wrote that “a number of seamstresses were out harvesting the county’s bumper peanut crop, but they planned to return to dress manufacturing in a few weeks.”

Jess Baker Building
116 North Crockett
This building was constructed in the late 1880s or early 1890s for Jess baker and his partner Sam H. Smith, to house the Baker and Smith Implement Company. Notice the Jess Baker Building’s elaborate pressed-in entablature topped by two triangular pediments. The original corrugated metal awning still remains on this building. In 1894, their partnership was dissolved, and Jess Baker continued to operate his shop as the Jess Baker Wagon and Implement Business. In 1904, Baker’s brother, D.O., joined him in business and the name changed again to Baker Hardware and Implement Company.

Baker-Rylee Building and Town Square Service Station
100 North Crockett
This cut limestone structure was built in 1895 to house the hardware operation of D.O. Baker and J.D. Rylee. The following year, Baker’s brother, Jess, joined the partnership and in 1898 the store became the Baker Hardware Co. Baker and Rile had a well dug inside their hardware store, and they installed a windmill and water tank on the roof, therefore they had their own 1890s water works system.
The first automobiles in Granbury appeared in 1907, registered to a handful of wealthy businessmen. Until the 1920s, very few residents of Granbury owned cars, and roads in the area were virtually impassable. Bur “Highway No. 10” between Granbury and Fort Worth was completed after 1924, and five years later Hood County had 30 miles of paved roadway. In 1929, this building was converted to a gasoline service station by the Transcontinental Oil Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Part of the building was removed to provide drive-through auto access, and gasoline pumps were added. From 1930 up to World War II, this was the busiest corner in Granbury. Both the service station and a café added during the 1930s were open 24 hours a day. Today there is a bypass for U.S. Highway 377, but at that time, Pearl Street was the main route through the city.

South Side of the Square

Gordon Building
122 East Pearl
These two native limestone structures with circular window arches may have been built as early as 1874 by W.E. Perkins. A dry goods and grocery merchant, Perkins, opened his business that year in a “stone building southeast corner square, Granbury, Texas.” During the 1880s, prominent Granbury merchant, A.P. Gordon ran a saloon in these buildings and he sold dry goods and groceries. Gordon and his brothers also owned and ran a prosperous local cotton gin. A well-known and much published legend surrounds a Gordon’s Saloon bartender named John St. Helen. Even today, many history buffs believe that St. Helen was actually John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, who was supposedly killed shortly after Lincoln’s death. St. Helen kept his identity a secret in Granbury until he became ill and made what he believed was a deathbed confession to both a Catholic priest from Dallas, and Gordon’s brother, F.J. Gordon. St. Helen also revealed to F.J. Gordon where he could find the pistol used to shoot Lincoln, a firearm still owned by Gordon family descendants. Upon recovering from his illness, St. Helen disappeared from Granbury. Years later, a man claiming to be both St. Helen and Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma.

Granbury Opera House
116 East Pearl
The most elaborate building on the Granbury Square, this two-story Italianate theater was built in 1886. Notice the detailed pressed tin cornice and pediment that crown the Opera House and the ornate hood molds over the upper windows. Kerr’s Opera House, which featured vaudeville acts, minstrel shows, singers, and melodramas occupied the top floor until 1911. The lower floor of the building housed many different businesses over the years, including a saloon and a saddle and harness shop. The Opera House was restored in a communitywide effort in the early 1970s and was reopened in 1975 by the Granbury Opera Association. The managing director and a resident acting troupe present entertaining musicals and original productions in the old Opera House 11 months a year.

Harris Building
129 East Pearl
Local stonemason I.W. Walley erected the rock walls of the masonry commercial building in 1899 and is also credited with helping to build the Hood County Courthouse. A cast iron storefront and decorative brickwork enhance the plastered façade. The two-story structure was built for Wesley Smith Harris (1854-1930), who ran a furniture home here. The two businesses were associated because at that time furniture manufacturers made casket parts. Ben Estes later took over the operation of both in 1927.

Haynes-Burns-Ewell Building
105 East Pearl
Early site of the Granbury Post Office, this native stone structure was erected by James C. Haynes, Postmaster from 1872 to 1874. He sold the edifice in 1878 to Thomas A. Burns, who served as Postmaster until 1883. The property was then sold to Thomas T. Ewell, a newspaperman who published as early history of Hood County.

The Granbury House
101 East Pearl Street
Martha Washington (Garrison) Stringfellow, a widow with three children, migrated to Hood County about 1871. To support her family, she opened a boarding house, known as “The Granbury House,” at this location. In 1874 she married local builder Joseph W. Anderson. Anderson was a stonemason and constructed many of Granbury’s homes, churches, and Victorian commercial buildings. In 1871 a contract was given to Anderson to rebuild the courthouse (which burned in 1875.) He was given several town lots in lieu of money Anderson was also a partner in the Holland and Anderson Lumber Mill.

South-West Corner of the Square

Hood County State Bank Building
101 West Pearl
This impressive red brick building was constructed in 1905 by John E. Brown for the Hood County State Bank. The wide round arches of the bank building’s entryway and windows and its pyramidal turret distinguished it as an example of the Victorian Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. Brown also built the elaborate Victorian “Round House” for himself that same year. The rooms in the house were pie-shaped, radiating out from a central hexagonal grand hall, which spanned 32 feet. Unfortunately, the house is no longer standing. After eight years, Hood County State Bank sold its building, which has housed business offices since that time.

West Side of the Square

Crites Building
105 North Houston
The Crites Building was constructed between 1905 and 1910 for C.L. (Lum) Crites, Jr., a dry goods merchant from the nearby rural town of Tolar. “Lum” Crites advertised his dry goods store in the Granbury News in 1910, touting the services of an experienced dressmaker and designer. In the mid1990s, Linda and Bill Anderle, owners of the City Flower Market, were stripping the south limestone wall of its old plaster and uncovered an old advertising mural. The faded but totally intact mural was painted on what was once the outside limestone wall of the building next door when it was a dry good store. The historic ad pronounces “Old Virginia Cheroots, 3 for 5.”

Bush Morgan Cherry Building
120 North Houston
Constructed in 1891, this building has been associated throughout its history with prominent businesses. From 1891 until 1894, it served as the dry goods store of F.C. Bush, who was the city tax collector and secretary in 1892. In 1895, the building housed the Morgan Drug Store, run by Eugene H. Morgan, who later became a prominent local physician. For the next 72 years, the building was associated with other drug stores including that of William H. Cherry, who served as mayor of Granbury and as director of the First National Bank.

J.D. Brown Building
124 North Houston
This one story stone building was probably built by J.D. Baker and originally housed a grocery store, but by 1896, J.D. Brown purchased the building for his dry goods store. He and his family operated this store until 1908 when it was lost for bad debt on the courthouse steps. This building was leased over a number of years to a number of different businessmen. The first silent movie theater began in this building. Eventually several different hardware stores were operated in this building and then it evolved into a book store which is it’s current business operation.

E.A. Hannaford Drugstore
130 North Houston
E.A. Hannaford came to Granbury in 1871 and established his first drugstore in a tent on the north side of the square. By 1881, he purchased one half of the lot from J.D. Baker and together they built the two-part commercial building in the Italianate Style. Tax records indicate both buildings were constructed in 1882. The cornice on Hannaford’s side advertised his drub and book business. “Doc” Hannaford was a prominent civic leader, instrumental in promoting higher education in the Granbury area, including serving on the Granbury College Board of Directors. Second floor tenants included the Granbury Graphics, an early newspaper owned and published by Ashley Crockett, a grandson of David Crockett, doctor’s offices and even a beauty parlor.

Baker-Doyle Building
132 North Houston
John D. Baker had this building constructed in 1882 for his dry goods store. Built of native limestone, the high Victorian Italianate structure features arched window openings with fanlights and a simple stone cornice. These two buildings were advertised as the “Arch Block” because of their distinctive arched façade with a six-bay storefront. Baker began his own dry goods business with $500 of borrowed capital. He hauled his dry goods from Dallas to Granbury in horse drawn wagons. Baker was one of the founders and original shareholders of The First National Bank of Granbury, established in 1887. He also participated with fellow merchants,. P.H. Thrash, the Nutt brothers, and E.A. Hannaford, in building the first bridge across the Brazos River in 1878. In 1891, Baker moved to Weatherford. In 1894, he became President of the First National Bank of Weatherford and helped establish Weatherford College.
Baker’s partner, James H. Doyle, became sole owner of the building in 1899. The store featured a millinery department upstairs, complete with a hat decorator from St. Louis. Doyle sold his building in 1908 to the City National Bank of Granbury, which operated until 1928. In October 1908, the bank added an iron stairway to the north side of the building (still in existence today) to provide access to dentists’ and physicians’ offices. Dr. S.T.R. Green practiced dentistry on the second floor from 1909 until his death in 1933. Granbury native, Albert Porter recalls, "That was the first dentist I ever visited. He didn’t deaden your teeth to pull them. He just pulled them."

North-West Corner of the Square

B.M. Estes Building
201 North Houston
This building was built in 1893, for Bevly Memphis Estes, a lawyer and county judge. He housed his law firm on the second floor while Sam Ferrell’s Grocery Store was on the ground floor. Sam Ferrell was one of the early day merchants who helped carry many farmers through the winter and summer months until their cotton was harvested.
This red brick and stone building portrays Romanesque Revival features in stone archways, corbel table, round arch windows and distinctive castiron exterior stairway, although the original storefront has been altered.

North Side of the Square

First National Bank
101 East Bridge
The Victorian commercial structure on the northwest corner of the square was the original bank building, which was constructed in 1883 for a private bank and loan company owned by local businessmen John Traylor and D.C. Cogdell. Traylor and Cogdell’s private venture proved so successful that the bank was chartered as the First National Bank of Granbury in 1887. In 1952, the First National Bank expanded into the second building in its third building in 1970s, originally using this building as a drive-through bank. The First National Bank of Granbury has remained in business in this location since 1887. Notice the elaborate pressed-tin bracketed cornice above most of the buildings on the north side of the square. This cornice was probably expanded from the bank’s original building in 1891, after a fire damaged the four buildings to the east of the corner building. Also notice the old iron plate at the base of the original bank building that still bears the inscription, “Traylor and Cogdell, 1883.”

Hardware and Tin Shop
107 East Bridge
A cabin dotted woodland in 1870s; this square soon had buildings of stone quarried less than a mile away. Investor John D. Baker built this structure in 1882 and in 1890 sold it to saloonkeepers Aston & Landers. Extensive repairs were made in 1891, after a fire in this and neighboring buildings. By 1895 ex-County Clerk, J.R. Morris, had a hardware and tin shop here. Lon Morris, a widely known lawyer and college benefactor had his offices on the second floor.

The Glenn Brothers’ Building
109 & 111 East Bridge
Erected in 1885 by town-builder James Farr, an attorney, bought in 1888 by the Glenn Brothers (Clark B., Dan, John L. and James M.) civic leaders interested in many businesses beside their family grocery housed in this structure. After a fire in this store and the three to the west, contractors Elliot & Halsley made extensive repairs in 1891 using heavy timbers clad in iron to support the brick veneer front of the upper story with its handsome Victorian styling.

Aston-Landers Building
113 East Bridge
This native Ashlar structure was built in 1893 as a saloon for Andy Aston and George W. Landers. Notice the cast-iron pilasters on the building and the patented iron threshold bearing the Aston-Landers name. Both Aston and Landers were from early Hood County Pioneer families. Their saloon was highly successful. Early residents recalled that when a patron imbibed too heavily, Mr. Aston would start the hanging light swaying and was soon able to lead the customer outside to his horse. Prohibition was finally enforced by local government in the early 1900s. According to an old Granbury newspaper article, Aston and Landers sold every drop of liquor in their saloon, taking in over $100, on the last night before prohibition began in December 1902.
When the saloon closed down in 1903, Aston and Landers moved their saddle and harness shop into the saloon building and added buggies to their stock in trade.

The Fair
115 East Bridge
Erected in 1888 by Andy Aston for a harness and saddle-making shop. Ironwork was added during a 1906 remolding, while George Landers was part owner. After the harness shop was relocated about 1908, various retail stores operated here including the grocery store of Joe Kerr and several drygood firms. Notable were “The Fair” and the store of “Blue-Front Riley,” a merchant nicknamed for the façade of his earlier store, on the west side of the Square.

J.F. and J. NUTT Building
121 East Bridge
The two-story limestone structure was built for blind brothers Jesse F. and Jacob Nutt to house their mercantile establishment. Their first store was a 16 feet by 12 feet log building constructed on the same site in 1866, with a wagon yard in the rear. This hand-hewn stone structure was built for the Nutt brothers by local contractor Jim Warren. The Nutt family settled in this area in the 1850s. Jesse and Jacob Nutt, together with Thomas Lambert, donated the 40-acre site that became Granbury, county seat of Hood County. In 1919, after the family grocery store was remodeled, the second floor of the building became the Nutt Hotel, famed for its dining room. One of the first buildings in Granbury to be restored in the 1970s, the Nutt House was reopened by Nutt family descendants Mary Lou Nutt Watkins and Joe Nutt. The building had been occupied by three generations of the Nutt family.

North-East Corner of the Square

Schultz Blacksmith Shop
201 East Bridge
Carl Severin Schultz was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1876. After marrying Nelsing Vestermann, he came to the United States and settled in Granbury. Schultz had several professions including the ownership of a soft drink factory. He later became the village blacksmith and operated his blacksmith shop on this site, which he purchased in 1900. Known throughout the town and county for his fine craftsmanship, Schultz represented the kind of settler and business leader who lived in Granbury at the turn of the century.

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This site was constructed by Andrea Sutton for the Hood County Historical Society