Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The round house of Granbury

Posted

BRIDGE STREET HISTORY CENTER

 

Dr. Tom Hamilton has been a Granbury resident since 1975, retiring from his dental practice in downtown Granbury after 40 years. He is a member of the Bridge Street History Center’s Board of Directors and an avid golfer and gardener. Tom and Martha live in Water’s Edge and enjoy the lake and their grandkids.

 

Granbury is famous for its fantastic record in preserving old homes and buildings in Hood County. Unfortunately, the ravages of time, weather, and funding issues have resulted in the loss of many notable and historic structures. A prime example is the fabled “Round House” of Granbury.

In 1905, local merchant John E. Brown decided to erect a fine house — one of unique and singular style. Ten years earlier, Brown had built the Hood County State Bank on Granbury Square, a fine red brick structure that still stands today and houses Red on the Square, an upscale boutique. He now decided to go for a home run in building his new residence. For this new project, he hired Sid Parks, a Dallas contractor of some renown, and gave him an unlimited budget.

The round house was an imposing two-story affair, with 14 rooms that were all pie-shaped and surrounding a vast central hall that was a 32-foot diameter hexagon. The great room doubled as a living room and a ballroom, where parties and dances took place. Mr. Brown spent much effort to make the great room a special place, with mirrored pilasters supporting the high ceiling and gleaming light oak floors. As a further touch of extravagance, each room in the house had a different type of imported wood for flooring.

The exterior had its own bragging rights, with rounded porches all around, supported by columns. Atop the second story was a round widow’s walk highlighting many rooftop parties. The house sat on a hill just northwest of the juncture of Paluxy Road and Highway 51 South, west of Granbury near what is now Walters Street. It was the pinnacle of an 80-acre farm and commanded a fantastic view of downtown Granbury and the Brazos River.

For all its grandeur, the round house had several negative aspects. The original construction took 18 months, and Brown ran short of money while furnishing the rooms. In fact, he only finished one upstairs room, apparently the maid’s quarters. The house had no indoor bathroom until the 1920s, nor full electrical wiring until the early 1930s. These and other flaws rendered the structure impractical as a residence, and it remained uninhabited for more than 25 years.

In the early 1960s, local lumber yard owner and former Mayor A.L. Norman bought the house and the 20 acres that previous owners had not sold off. By this time, the once-magnificent building was in ruins, and Mr. Norman had no choice but to demolish it. Proper restoration was prohibitively expensive, and local teenagers rode motorcycles through the rooms and had illicit parties. Mr. Norman’s insurance carrier was concerned about safety issues and recommended razing the entire structure.

So although John Brown’s grand vision is gone, the Round House of Granbury will live on in our Hood County lore.

(Note: Dr. Hamilton used a 1987 Hood County News article by Candace Manroe as a reference.)