Hood County Courthouse Historic District
National Reg. 74002080 120 acres/12 buildings
The Hood County Courthouse, together with the surrounding Victorian commercial structures, present one of the most complete nineteenth century courthouse squares in Texas. Dominated by the Second Empire style courthouse built in 1893, the square is lined with one and two-story native limestone buildings, built mainly in the late nineteenth century. A few commercial structures completed the rows of buildings in the early twentieth century, but they all conform to the architectural unity of the town square. Designed by W. C. Dodson, a Waco architect, the courthouse was constructed in 1890-91. The three-story, limestone structure, patterned after the popular French Second Empire style, possesses a basic composition that Dodson had previously used in the county courthouses of Lampasas (1883), Parker (1885), and Hill (1890). The scheme is composed of a five-part plan: a projecting entrance pavilion, two mansard-roofed pavilions, and two recesses on each facade of the building. A three-story clock tower rises from the center of the roof with the first and top story treated as convex Mansard roofs. The rectilinear middle element has a three part Venetian window with elaborate semicircular molded architraves. Attached pilasters and quoins embellish the corners of the projecting pavilions in addition to boldly framing the arched entrances.
Surrounding the square are various two-story, limestone, Victorian commercial structures. The north side of the square is the most impressive, for there is a continuous row of two-story structures with projecting, bracketed, pressed tin cornices and narrow Victorian arched windows on the second floor. The First National Bank building on the northwest corn is distinguished from the others by its elaborate molding above the segmental arched windows. Another interesting structure along this row is the Aston-Landers Building. The rear and party walls of this limestone building are laid in rubble technique while the main facade is laid in ashlar blocks. The inscription, "Aston-Landers Building", is in the iron threshold at the front door and iron posts support the first floor. There is a design in bas-relief around the round arches of the narrow windows of the second floor and they are connected by a belt course. The original doors had oval lights and were probably set back to form an entranceway. The only one-story structure along the row is the limestone building, known in the early days as "The Fair", which adjoins the Aston- Landers building. The small store is embellished by a parapet on its main facade. All of these buildings are Legal Description.
The Hood County Courthouse Historic District includes the property within a 700 foot square area with an extension of the northeast corner of the square to include the old wagon yard (# 6 on the site map) constructed of rubble limestone on the rear and side walls and the fronts are more carefully laid in ashlar blocks or covered in brick veneer. On the north side of the square, but standing separately at the northeast corner is the "Nutt House" or "J.F. & J. Nutt Building". This attractive structure built in 1893 has a first floor supported by iron posts and divided in the middle by a stone column. The six round arched windows of the second floor are connected horizontally by a limestone belt course. The structure is crowned by a parapeted cornice with a checkerboard diapered effect.
A short distance off the square to the north and facing Crockett
street is the jail house. Built in 1885 this jail is a two-story,
limestone vernacular block structure with an off-center, taller,
projecting portion on the main facade. This taller section, which
contains the entrance, was originally constructed to provide for an
indoor gallows, but no one was ever hanged. Slightly overhanging
bracketed eaves around the roof line of the main structure and the
taller portion provide the only embellishment.
These are the most outstanding structures within the Hood County Courthouse Historic District. However, the outstanding feature is the visual continuity expressed by these buildings in forming a late nineteenth century courthouse 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 seat 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. Granbury. There was apparently some controversy as to the selection of a town site, but a 40acre donation by Tommy Lambert and the Nutt brothers was finally accepted by the voters.
The city surveyor, McCamant, laid out Granbury in a grid pattern of twenty blocks with the courthouse square at its center. 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. When this structure 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. Listed as a Waco architect in the 1885 roster of Texas architects, Dodson had previously designed the Lampasas, Parker and Hill County Courthouses also in the Second Empire style.
Around the square merchants began to locate their businesses in the late 1860's. The first structures were wooden frame buildings, but native limestone commercial structures replaced the early wood buildings in the 1880's and 1890's. Today this late nineteenth century character remains, for the majority of these Victorian commercial structures are still standing. In addition, there are no modern intrusions which spoil the sense of continuity.
The two-story limestone structures on the northwest corner of the west side of the square were two of the earliest building. 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 note-worthy 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, increasing its original floor space. The two adjacent buildings were built ca. late 1880's and have been used continuously for mercantile businesses and offices. The adjoining two-story limestone structure which houses the Hood Count 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 had 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 and Andy As ton opened a Buggy and harness shop in the former saloon building. This building presently houses Jeannine's clothing store. The one- story structure at the end of the row was built by Andy Aston and George Landers ca 1896 for their harness and saddle shop. When the saloon closed down, they moved the shop into the adjoining building and added buggies to their stock. The little building, later called "The Fair", was refurbished and rented as a dry goods store and has continued to house commercial businesses.
Another important structure on the north side of the square, presently occupied by the "Nutts House" restaurant, was built in 1893 by the Nutt brothers--Jesse, Jake and David Lee. The brothers had built a small log house to begin their grocery business and in 1893 expanded their business by building this two-story limestone structure. The Nutt brothers were very influential in the history of Granbury, beginning with the 40-acre donation of land for the town site. 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. Behind the "Nutts House" is a one-story limestone building which was used for the 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 gallows, but no one was ever hanged.
The opera house on the south side 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. As a centennial project the exterior of the building was recently restored. The Granbury Opera Association is now soliciting funds to restore the interior to reopen the opera house for an annual series of cultural programs and community activities.
The development of the Granbury town square is typical of the development of small Texas courthouse towns. The unique quality of the square, however, lies in the fact that the city has been able to preserve all of their late nineteenth century commercial structures, which are unspoiled by "modern" buildings. The entire square maintains a sense of architectural unity and is one of the most complete examples of a late nineteenth century courthouse square in Texas. Conscious of the architectural integrity of the courthouse square, the city has declared the whole square a historic district. In addition, Granbury citizen have been active in restoring the commercial buildings and have recently approved a bond issue to restore the Hood County Courthouse.
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This site was constructed by Andrea Sutton for the Hood County Historical Society