Reprinted from Hood County News dated June 27, 1976
The Courthouse Square has been designated a Historical District by the Texas Legislature and has also been entered in the National Register of Historical Places in Washington, D. C. In addition, Hood County has been named both a State and National Bi-centennial County. With all of this fame, I would like to show highlights of some of the interesting features of the Square.
After the arrival of the first settlers in the 1850’s, Hood County was finally created from Johnson County in 1866. The same law that created the county designated that a site be chosen for the county set and named Granbury. Founded just after the Civil War, both the county and the county seat were named for outstanding generals in the Confederate Army, Gen. John Bell Hood and Gen. Hiram B. Granberry.
Twenty-nine years after Granberry’s death on the battlefield, he was reinterred in the Granbury Cemetery, attended by “Men who had followed his impetuous charges, who had seen the magnificent flash of his sword.”
There was apparently some controversy as to the selection of a town site, but a 40-acre donation by Tommy Lambert and the Nutt brothers was finally accepted by the voters.
Hood County’s first courthouse was 16′ by 16′ log house of one-story, built in the center of the square in 1867. As this proved inadequate, a one-story frame and stone structure was built at the southeast corner of the square to house the courthouse functions. In 1871 a two-story stone courthouse was built on the site occupied by the log cabin courthouse. A quote from The Chronicle, Jan. 20, 1872 reports on the completion of the courthouse and the contractors “intend to give a grand ball therein on Wednesday, February 22, next, in honor of Washington’s birthday . . . come and help us inaugurate our new court house.” Spirits were to be furnished by J. F. and J. Nutt and proper conduct was reportedly to be enforced.
According to T. T. Ewell, author of The History of Hood Co., at this time one was able “to kill, hang to a post oak limb and dress his deer on the public square of Granbury.” When the courthouse burned in 1875, another stone building was erected in its place. Unfortunately, this fourth courthouse was poorly constructed and was finally demolished in 1890. The present courthouse, designed by W. C. Dodson, was constructed in the Second Empire style in 1891.
The development of the Granbury Town Square is not unique: rather, it is markedly typical of the development of Town Squares all over Texas. >From these centers radiated the political, economic, social, and cultural forces that determined the destiny of our whole state.
The architecture of the Granbury Town Square is unique; both in the quality of its architectural design and in its remarkable state of preservation. There are no “new” buildings on the Square.
All of the buildings on this Town Square are constructed primarily of limestone blocks quarried locally, the sidewalks and rears being rough-cut and the fronts being of hand dressed, beautifully cut stones. The architecture is generally classed as Victorian limestone, although the basic design is less ornated than most Victorian–with the exception of the Courthouse and the “old red bank” building which have turrets.
There is a unity of design about this Square which leads people to believe that the buildings were done by the same architect, or at least by architects working together. Such is not the case.
There was, however, a man named Anderson who appears in the building trade often enough for us to suspect that he had considerable influence on the construction of these buildings.
There were at least two quarries within a mile of the square. One was on the west, the other on the east in the river bottom land. Not only was the stone used in blocks, it was also reduced to lime by fire, and the lime mixed with local sand for cement and for plastering.
Heavy timbers for building were hauled in from east Texas by oxcart, as was good flooring and good siding. Much of this material was red cypress, not available today.
Doctor of Pharmacy, E. A. Hannaford, who was educated in England, rode into Granbury carrying gold in his saddlebags in 1871 and founded the Hannaford Drug and Book store in a tent. He dispensed advice and medications under the motto, “Never cheap drugs, only the best money can buy.”
Dr. Hannaford strongly influenced Hood County’s economic and cultural growth. Together with P. H. Thrash and D. L. Nutt, they built the first bridge across the Brazos at Granbury. This was a toll bridge. Family members credit Mrs. Hannaford with this bridge. She disliked having the Doctor arrive home wet from fording the river.
In the upstairs of the Hannaford building, J. R. Lancaster, M. D. and later his son, Dr. Gus Lancaster practiced medicine. There was no Hospital. Hood County people were born in their homes, and they died at home with their beloved doctors in attendance.
The two-story limestone structures on the northwest corner of the west side of the square were two of the earliest buildings. One housed the E. A. Hannaford Drug Company and J. D. Baker’s Dry Goods occupied the corner building in the 1880’s.
Along the north side of the square there are several noteworthy structures. The First National Bank building, built in 1883 on the northwest corner, was Granbury’s first bank structure and was chartered as a national bank in 1887. The bank has continued to operate in the same building, although it has expanded to the adjoining buildings. D. C. Cogdell and John H. Traylor, the men who open the private bank in 1883 printed and signed their own greenbacks.
The two adjacent buildings were built in the late 1880’s and have been used continuously for mercantile businesses and offices. In 1890 Aston-Landers owned this site and used it for their first saloon.
It was one of five saloons on Granbury’s Town Square and it was remembered as the fanciest. From the time of Constable Tom Mullins’ shootout with Nat Tracy in 1901 until 1906 when Granbury was declared dry, the saloon was recorded as the most famous in Granbury.
When the saloon was closed Andy Aston opened a buggy and harness shop in the building. With talented workers the business became a success in custom saddle making.
After several years the business was replaced by an early day beauty parlor, a cafe, a furniture store and various other enterprises on the Town Square.
Incomplete county records, a fire, and T. T. Ewell’s “History of Hood County” help speculate that the building now occupied by “Young Citizens” was built in 1888. The Glenn Brothers, who came here after the Civil War, operated a family grocery in the building and according to Ewell, who wrote in 1895, it was one of the longest standing groceries in Granbury.
The adjoining two-story limestone structure which houses the Hood County News was built in 1891. The building has been occupied at various times by a meat market, restaurant, and a photographic studio on the second floor. The newspaper moved into this building in 1964.
The last two-story structure along this row is known as the Aston-Landers Saloon building built in 1893 by Andy Aston and George Landers. Although Hood County has been a dry county beginning with the first election in 1876, the people of Granbury often ignored this law and as many as five saloons operated on the Granbury square at one time. However, in 1906 the town of Granbury went dry.
Henry Nutt, the son of David Lee, discontinued the grocery store, but ran a hotel and dining room. The present restaurant remains a Nutt family enterprise, the building having been occupied by three generations of the family.
Behind the “Nutt House” is a one-story limestone building which was used for a wagon yard.
The Hood County jail just a short distance off the square was built in 1885. The projecting portion of the front was built to provide for an indoor gallwos, but no one was ever hanged. In the center of the second floor where the jails are one finds an area where the ceiling rises to a height of about 20 feet. It was here that they built their gallows. Right after they were built, the legislature stopped hangings except at the state penitentiary.
The opera house on the south side of the square added a cultural element to the town. Constructed in 1886, the building was the most elaborate on the square. Traveling vaudeville acts, minstrel shows, famous singers of the day, melodramas, and many forms of entertainment kept the opera house active until after the turn of the century. It is legend that John St. Helen (the alleged John Wilkes Boothe) performed in Shakespearian performances here.
The building on the south side of the Square that currently houses the Hood County Abstract Co. has been approved for a state historical marker having been restored and refurbished. It will be known as the Hanes-Burns-Ewell Building has housed many commercial operations through the years as well as the Post Office in 1872-78.
The history of our square still has gaps in it but the Historical Commission and interested parties are working diligently to connect everything. All help in supplying facts, stories, and pictures is appreciated and will help future generations in forming their ideas of the past–our heritage.