Welcome... To Historic Downtown Granbury

Downtowns across the nation went through a period of abandonment in the 1980s and 1990s, for the most part, as businesses and people fled to other areas. A movement has been ongoing for more than a decade now as community leaders work to revive what some call their heartbeat.

  • Words by John Ingle, Photos by Torin Halsey
It's not very often poverty can be the impetus for something great, but it does happen.

Granbury, about 30 miles southwest of Fort Worth, fell on hard times in the early-to-mid 1900s, as its population dropped 27 percent between 1920 and 1930. Each decade after the decline improved, though.

There was an unintended consequence that came to the town in that it was "blessed by poverty."

Melinda Ray, owner and operator of the Nutt House Hotel said it was those unfortunate financial times that kept Granbury from following in the footsteps of other Texas towns by tearing down the old storefronts and replacing them with a more modern look.

The Nutt family and others moved to an area north of Granbury in the late 1850s called Stockton Bend. Folks later moved to the existing site of Granbury after the Civil War to establish the community. The Nutt brothers - two of them blind - opened up a building that was used for commerce in the late 1800s before it became the Nutt House Hotel in 1910.
"We were too poor to do that. We didn't have any money here, and, so, consequently most of the buildings have maintained their original appearance ... from a historic preservation standpoint ... the poverty that we had here for so many years was actually a blessing." - Melinda Ray
Like most downtowns in the U.S. Granbury's square fell into disarray over the years, but Mary Lou Watkins, the great granddaughter of D.L. Nutt, decided in the 1970s it was time to bring her hometown back to life.

Others took part in the revitalization movement, and the Hood County seat became the first Texas downtown to be put on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I thought the town should remain in the mainstream of history ... A Living, Breathing, Community." - Mary Lou Watkins
"(The Nutts) took the bull by the horns, I guess you'd say, and started talking to some people in the community ... They just gradually began encouraging people in the community, and people from the metroplex, to purchase these old buildings, invest in them, fix them up and, you know, be respectful to history." - Melinda Ray

Another key player to get in on Granbury's revitalization, Ray King, moved to Texas in 1976 with his family and antiques in tow, looking for a small town that had potential to grow. In the 1980s, he purchased the 9,000-square-feet building now known as Wagon Yard.

Wagon Yard specializes in selling antiques, and King later moved into home furnishings, too.
Sonya Bartley (left) talks with Aaron King, owner of Wagon Yard, in downtown Granbury. The 9,000 square foot store has been selling furniture, lighting and home decor since 1977.

King's son, Aaron King, now owns and operates Wagon Yard with his brother Samuel, and the two had the advantage of growing up in Granbury and watching it and the town square transform into a destination location not just for residents, but out-of-town-guests.

"(Watching downtown grow) was pretty incredible ... It's neat growing up in a small town, and then being able to watch it grow into something really special. You don't see this type of square very often in Texas." - Aaron King

A large park with trails, fountains, sculptures and bridges sits just a short walk from the downtown square in Granbury.

Several stretches of sidewalk on the square in downtown Granbury are made of large blocks of native stone and were laid in the late 19th century.

The original two-story building that SpellBound occupies was constructed by the Glenn brothers in 1885. The entire square in downtown Granbury was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Tasteful renovations and restorations have saved the buildings that might have been torn down years ago.

Enter Rock and Tammy Pistillo - two Ohio transplants who fell in love with Granbury when they moved to Texas in 2013. The Pistillos loved the town so much, they decided to buy a business on the town square in July 2014, the boutique store SpellBound.

SpellBound carries a wide variety of gift items, jewelry and Texas-themed merchandise. Niche boutiques, like SpellBound, and other stores have been popular tourist spots for visitors.

The Pistillos didn't just want to be on the square. They wanted to raise the bar for merchants and create a new standard. To do so, they've decided to stay open later in the evenings: Open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays, and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Pistillos aren't finished investing in their newfound home's square, though. Tammy said in early September that they have taken over the lease for The Bridge just a few doors down from SpellBound close to the Nutt House Hotel.

Thank you for visiting Granbury! Come back and see us soon.

"(Downtown) is a vital part of our community. It's a wonderful place for people from all over to come and, like I said, get a sense of history, but also have access to arts and culture in a small-town setting." - Melinda Ray
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Orlando Flores Jr.
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Credits:

Torin Halsey

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