(a 10 minute read)

Take an afternoon to explore Granbury Texas, a small town with big history and amazing architecture around the courthouse square. 

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I was a guest of Visit Granbury, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

My journey had started in Amarillo, and then I traveled to Lubbock, Grapevine, and Waco. Granbury would be the final stop on my Texas road trip.

I love small towns with big histories, but I only had an afternoon to explore Granbury.

I spent several hours visiting key historical sites on a walking tour of the town square and outlying areas. Later, we would drive to visit two of more than 70 additional historic locations scattered across Hood County.

An Afternoon to Explore Granbury Texas

Situated about 80 miles southwest of Dallas, the town of Granbury Texas, was founded in 1887 and named after Confederate Brigadier General Hiram B. Granberry. Granberry was a native of Lorman, Mississippi, and studied law at Baylor University in Waco, but no evidence exists of any connection to the town that bears his name. It seems the town of Granbury was part of the prevalent postbellum wave across the South to honor officers who died fighting for the Lost Cause. Twenty-nine years after his death at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, General Granberry’s body was disinterred, moved, and reburied in the Texas town that bears his name.

Granbury’s history is full of folklore and legends. Three well-known local legends (two even make the city website) allege that the outlaws Jesse James, John Wilkes Booth, and Billy the Kid did not die according to historical accounts, but rather moved and lived for many years in the Granbury Texas area.

Local lore is good fun, but it always makes me wonder, who makes up this stuff?

Two historical figures, David Crockett‘s widow Elizabeth and son Robert, did settle in Hood County in the 1850s, and plenty of documentation exists to support this claim.

Hood County Courthouse Historic District

Granbury is the county seat of Hood County, named after John Bell Hood, another Confederate General who led the Texas Brigade. The Hood County Courthouse Historic District, as well as many individual structures within the district, has been designated for preservation as a site on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Map Credit: Historic Granbury Merchant’s Association

The courthouse square reminds me of similar small-town squares I have visited throughout the South, such as those in Dahlonega, Georgia, and Monroeville, Alabama. When planning a visit, be sure to download the Historic Granbury Town Square Map.

Hood County Courthouse (1891)

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The Hood County Courthouse, completed in 1891, replaced earlier log and limestone structures that were situated on the town square.

This limestone edifice is designed in the French Second Empire style by Waco architect W. C. Dodson. While writing, I could not help but make comparisons to the 1881 Spring Hill Ranch House I had toured at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas, also a limestone Second Empire-style construction.

The courthouse has experienced several renovations and restorations over the years, the most recent in 2012. Even so, the original 1881 Seth Thomas hand-wound clock and McShane bell in the clock tower are configured and function exactly as they did when they were installed.

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The most recent preservation effort included renovating newly-discovered stenciling and reconstructing wooden shutters in the second-floor courtroom.

Vaults and safes were restored to their original states, and although it is no longer in use, a closet urinal located in the stairwell for the convenience of district judges was left in place.

When we first arrived in Granbury, the skies were overcast, but later in the afternoon the sun broke through the clouds, completely transforming the appearance of the courthouse building.

The Granbury Opera House (1886)

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Believe it or not, opera houses were common additions to West Texas towns in the late 19th century. The Granbury Opera House, located directly on the town square across from the courthouse, was completed in 1886, and has been meticulously restored with “imported chandeliers, elegant twin curved staircases, the original limestone walls, filigree iron balcony railings, [and] pressed-tin-inspired acoustic ceiling tiles . . . .”

Today, the 309-seat opera house is home to the Granbury Theatre Company, an organization that boasts a full calendar of Broadway shows, concerts, and other forms of entertainment. The day I visited, a matinee concert with Broadway and country singer Gary Morris was in progress, so I did not get to tour the interior.

Former Marathon Oil Gas Station

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Situated on the southeast corner of the town square is another historic limestone structure. The building, formerly a Marathon Oil service station, is currently occupied by an auto-themed restaurant called The Fillin’ Station. Local lore says Bonnie and Clyde stopped there for service back in the day.

The Nutt House Hotel (1893)

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The Nutt House Hotel, another hand-hewn limestone building, is situated at the northeast corner of the town square. The building originally housed a mercantile store run by two blind brothers Jesse and Jacob Nutt and their sighted brother David, who were among Granbury’s earliest settlers. In 1910, the brothers converted the business into a hotel and dining room. Today the hotel is a bed & breakfast, and offers the only accommodations directly on the town square.

Mary Lou Watkins (1917-2001)

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A statue on the courthouse square honors the memory of Mary Lou Watkins, granddaughter of David Nutt, who restored the Nutt House Hotel and Dining Room and led the struggle for historic preservation in her hometown. “Her efforts resulted in Granbury becoming the first town square in Texas to be placed on the National Register.”

Hood County Jail Museum (1885)

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The 1885 Hood County Jail Museum, located one-half block north of the courthouse square, is perhaps the most unique limestone structure in town. At the time of construction, modern indoor plumbing was installed on both floors. The ground floor served as housing for law enforcement officers, and the upper floor contained a group jail cell, a single cell, and a gallows. The gallows was never used, the only execution in town having occurred ten years prior to the jail’s construction. The building functioned as a detention facility for city and county prisoners until 1978.

Bridge Street History Center Museum (1879)

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The mission of the Bridge Street History Center Museum, located in the former David Nutt house, is to preserve the oral histories of Hood County residents. The museum recently produced a 20-minute video about one of the county’s most infamous stories, entitled “The Feud at Mitchell Bend.” The film details the Mitchell-Truett feud that resulted in the conviction and hanging of Nelson “Cooney” Mitchell mentioned previously.

One of two surviving hitching stones issued by a marble yard to merchants located on the town square is now situated streetside in front of the history center museum.

Granbury Depot (1914)

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Located a half-mile north of the town square, the historical Granbury Depot is home to the Hood County Genealogical Society, and is a visual testament to a time when rail transportation was an economic necessity for small towns. The brick building features typical wide overhanging eaves and a hip roof covered with Ludowici clay tiles. Like all train depots across the south, the Granbury Depot had segregated waiting rooms for black and white passengers.

The Sheriff’s House (1873)

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The Sheriff’s House, also known as the Wright-Henderson-Duncan House, is located about a mile from the town square. The ground floor began as a limestone dogtrot house built by Hood County Sheriff A. J. Wright in 1873. The next owner, Sheriff J. F. Henderson, added the second floor in 1891. Sheriff Charles M. Duncan, the third owner, installed electricity and plumbing and made other alterations to the house in 1928. I think it’s pretty safe to say we know how the house got its name.

The Sheriff’s House is currently owned by local architect Brian Gaffin, who has continued preservation of the historical home and uses part of the house as an office. Gaffin was kind enough to give us a tour of the house and share details about the restoration process. I was especially fascinated with the stand-alone sink that was once an outdoor well until it was enclosed in a house addition.

I love wavy window panes, windmills, and water tanks. When I captured this backyard scene from an upstairs bedroom at the Sheriff’s House, I couldn’t resist applying an antique filter. The edited image turned out as I had envisioned, and my imagination carried me away to an earlier time.

Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour

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It is no secret that I enjoy ghost tours, because to me they are actually historical tours in disguise. The Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour was no different. Our animated guide shared stories aplenty about ghost sightings and paranormal experiences on our walking tour around town, but we also picked up a lot of history along the way.

Our spooky walk took us down several side streets off the courthouse square, which included a revisit to the “haunted” old jail, as well as several incredibly lovely historical homes. The Ghosts and Legends tour is a great introduction to Granbury’s past.

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Map Credit: Hood County Historical Commission

Because we only had one afternoon on our itinerary, we were not able to explore the rest of Hood County. When planning a visit, the Hood County Historic Location Map (PDF) is a great resource, especially if you’ve got a couple of days to spend in the area.

Food & Lodging

Lunch at Christina’s American Table was delicious, especially the lobster grilled cheese daily special!

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Later in the afternoon, we stopped by the Inn on Lake Granbury for happy hour and hors d’oeuvres.

This luxury property within walking distance of the town square is the perfect place for getaways, events, and meetings.

Joints like the RibShack are ideal for a casual dinner. I will opt for simple, rustic roadside BBQ any day!

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Evening fell all too soon, but the lake view from my room at the Hilton Garden Inn was a satisfying finale to a perfect afternoon in Granbury Texas.

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We Would Love to Hear From You

We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever visited Granbury or Hood County, Texas? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!

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Take an afternoon to explore Granbury, Texas, a small town with big history and amazing architecture around the courthouse square

Helpful Links

Visit Granbury

Historic Granbury Town Square Map (PDF)

Hood County Historic Location Map (PDF)

Granbury Theatre Company

Nutt House Hotel

Hood County Jail Museum

Bridge Street History Center Museum

Hood County Genealogical Society

Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour

Christina’s American Table


Inn on Lake Granbury

Hilton Garden Inn Granbury

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Howard Blount is founder and editor of the travel web site Backroad Planet. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with the likes of Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. Recently retired from a 35-year career as a middle school teacher, Howard enjoys spending his time on anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, restored classic movies on Blu-ray, HDTV, autumn, sandhill cranes, hot springs, Florida springs, rain and other gloomy weather, log cabins, cracker shacks, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, museums, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, scenic and historical sites, castles, cathedrals, the Civil War, cold sheets, National and State Park Passports, quotes, the Rambos, Dionne Warwick, Steely Dan, Doobies, Diet Pepsi, Fish City Grill, anything Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists. And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.