The Historic Nutt House Hotel - On the Granbury Square
All the Ambiance of the Past...
All the Comforts of the Present
 

The picture at right here is a picture of the DAVID LEE NUTT FAMILY HOME as it was around the dawn of the twentieth century.  The house was the original location of the family run lodging enterprise that became known as THE NUTT HOUSE HOTEL!  The hotel was located here from around 1880 until it was moved to the floor above the mercantile around 1910.  The hotel has operated as some kind of lodging continuously since that time to the present day.

The STORY of the Nutt Family and their HOTEL in Granbury....


The Nutt family came to the area that became Granbury in 1858 just before the start of the Civil War.  David Granville Nutt and his wife Sue Landers Nutt were already in their fifties, and brought with them several of their twelve children and their spouses and assorted grandchildren.  They all settled here in the valley of the BrazosRiver, where they and their descendents were to play a major role in the history and prosperity of the area for generations to come.  The rooms in the Historic Nutt House Hotel are named for some of them.  These are their stories.....

David and Sudie Nutt

David Lee Nutt, is certainly amongst one of the most enduring and endearing Granbury figures.  David Lee Nutt was the youngest of the children born to David and Sarah Nutt, of Tennessee.  He worked since the documented age of twelve, serving as the eyes in business to his elder blind brothers, Jesse and Jacob Nutt.

David married Sue Garland Landers in 1872, and had four children. Only one, their son Henry, survived to full adulthood.  They built a home in 1879 just two blocks away from the site of the family mercantile on the square.  As David took over more of the business burden after Jacob Nutt withdrew in the 1890’s, more and more it fell to Sudie and Jessie’s wife Elizabeth to provide hospitality to salesmen and customers who needed a place to stay overnight.  Eventually, so many people stayed regularly in the big white house on Bridge street, that it became known affectionately in the community as the “Nutt House Hotel”!  This continued well past the turn of the century.  A contemporary account describes them:  “As host and hostess, Mr. Nutt and his amiable wife are without peers as entertainers, and all who stop beneath their roof are made to feel at home.”

 

Meanwhile, the grand limestone building had been erected in 1893 to house the brothers’ prospering mercantile business.  Advancing age and a desire for more family privacy prompted David and his son, Henry to undertake the conversion of the second floor of that building into the original ten room Hotel, now celebrated as The Historic Nutt House Hotel.  The hotel boasted two indoor full bathrooms – one for the gentlemen, and one for the ladies – state of the art for that time and place.  For years, thru the heyday of the roaring twenties and the original run of the Granbury Opera House the Nutt Hotel was “the” place to stay on the Granbury square!

Sudie passed away in 1920, and David followed her in death in 1929, leaving behind a rich legacy of civic-mindedness and hospitality, that continues to this day in the wonderful hotel business that they started just to help out friends and customers all those years ago.

David and Sudie’s home was purchased and restored by their great-granddaughter, Mary Lou Watkins in the late 1960’s and recently became a museum in 2009.  Visit link below for more information.



Jesse and Elizabeth Nutt

Jesse Franklin Nutt was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, January 19, 1833. He moved with his parents to Missouri in 1844. On April 10, 1853, he married his cousin,  Miss Elizabeth Landers. Four children were born to this union but two died in infancy. Two daughters lived to adulthood.  Jessie and his brother Jacob both became blind in 1854 and 1855 due to a disease of the eye.  Far from allowing blindness to handicap them or interfere with their plans for their lives, Jessie and his family moved with other members of the Nutt family to Texas in 1858. With his brother, Jacob, he opened a business in Stockton Bend in 1867 with $30.00 capital. Their youngest brother, David Lee Nutt, at age ten, began his life’s work as their eyes in business at that time.

When the site of Granbury was chosen as the county seat of Hood County, the two blind brothers and Thomas Lambert donated 40 acres as a town site. The Nutt brothers then moved their business to Granbury and opened in a log house on the very site where the Historic Nutt House Hotel now stands.  They built the current Nutt Hotel building from 1891- 1893 at a cost of $10,000.00.  In cooperation with other businessmen they built the first bridge across the Brazos River at Granbury.

The blind brothers with their mother were among the charter members of the First Baptist Church of Granbury.  Jesse was one of the messengers who organized Paluxy Baptist Association. At the annual session in 1886 he was elected Treasurer and at each annual session for the next 18 years he was selected to that office again. Some time soon after the organization of the Association he was licensed to preach by the Granbury Church, but the date cannot be ascertained. There is no record that he was ever ordained but he preached in many places, and at one time served as associational missionary.

Elizabeth assisted with the operation of the original Nutt House Hotel in the home of her brother-in-law David Nutt and his wife Sudie.  She lived to see the erection of the “new” building in 1893, but passed away only a few years later, in 1898 from injuries sustained in a fall.  Jesse F. Nutt died February 4, 1913 and was buried next to Elizabeth in the Granbury Cemetery.


Jacob Nutt

Jacob Nutt was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, on New Years Day, 1835. He moved with his parents to Missouri in 1844. Jacob and his older brother Jessie both became blind in 1854 and 1855 due to a disease of the eye.  Far from allowing blindness to handicap them or interfere with their plans for their lives, Jessie and his family moved with other members of the Nutt family to Texas in 1858. With his brother, Jessie, he opened a business in Stockton Bend in 1867 with $30.00 capital. Their youngest brother, David Lee Nutt, at age ten, began his life’s work as their eyes in business at that time.

When the site of Granbury was chosen as the county seat of Hood County, the two blind brothers and Thomas Lambert donated 40 acres as a town site. The Nutt brothers then moved their business to Granbury and opened in a log house on the very site where the Historic Nutt House Hotel now stands.  They built the current Nutt Hotel building in 1893 at a cost of $10,000.00.  In cooperation with other businessmen they built the first bridge across the Brazos River at Granbury.

 

The blind brothers with their mother were among the charter members of the First Baptist Church of Granbury.  Jacob never married, but lived out his Christian covictions in being, as his tombstone states, “father to the fatherless”.  Along with his brothers, he spent many years as a prominent businessman and civic leader.  But in times of tragedy, family came first.  He opened his home on one of the Nutt Family farms to the children of three different family members, when they lost their parents.  In all he basically raised and educated from a young age seven nieces and nephews.  In his role as parent, he became a staunch advocate for quality education in Granbury and the surrounding area.  He served on the organizing board of Granbury’s first secondary school.  It is no wonder that during those years he decided to retire from active participation in the mercantile once David was old enough to be a full partner!  He lived out his years as a farmer and surrogate father and grandfather and active churchman, and died in 1912 at the age of seventy-seven.


Mattie B. and Mattie E. Nutt

Mattie Nutt was the name of two very special ladies in the Nutt Family.  Both were born within a week of each other in May of 1874!  Their fathers were brothers, David Lee and Abel Nutt, of Granbury. 

The elder of the cousins, Martha B. (Mattie) Nutt, was born to Abel and Indiana Rylee Nutt on May 21, 1874.  The younger, born a week later on May 28, 1874, was Martha Eli Nutt, who was the daughter of David Lee and Sue (Sudie) Garland Nutt.  The two girls grew up together, and following the Nutt family tradition of having well-educated, active women, each became accomplished young ladies at a young age. 

Mattie B. lost her parents at a young age, and was partly raised by her Uncle Jacob who took her and her siblings into his home after Abel’s death.  Mattie was a creative soul, who from a young age saw beauty and grace in the world around her.  By age nineteen, she was already known as an accomplished artist.  Tragically, she died of a fever at age twenty in 1895.  Here paintings became treasured family heirlooms, and several of them still hang in the Nutt family home on Bridge Street, as part of the museum now housed there.

Martha Eli grew up working with her brother, father, and uncles in the family mercantile business.  Even as a young woman she was known for her intelligence, independence, devout religious beliefs, and strong business sense.  After a brief, disastrous marriage in 1897 that ended in divorce, she took back her maiden name, and resolved to devote her life and talents to the missionary work of the Methodist church.  She was consecrated as a missionary in 1908 and was sent first to Old Mexico, and later to many other mission fields to spread the gospel and help improve the lives of the less fortunate.  She never again called Granbury home, but was greatly admired there for her unflagging devotion to the work of the Gospel.  She died in Los Angles, California in 1951.


Henry and Euna Nutt

Henry Lee Nutt was the only surviving son of David and Sudie Nutt.  He and his wife Euna inherited the hotel property upon David’s death in 1929.  But Henry had long been a vital part of the businesses there.  Henry grew up working in the merchantile alongside his father and uncles, and it was he and his father who made the decision to open a hotel on the second floor, and shift the focus of their business enterprise in that direction.  The Hotel opened sometime between 1910 and 1919, after an extensive remodel of the second floor, that involved installing indoor plumbing (There were TWO bathrooms!) and cutting windows for each room into the foot thick limestone walls.

Henry and Euna operated the Nutt Hotel together until his death in 1954.  They had three children, Lois Nutt Hannaford, David Henry Nutt (who died young, leaving two daughters), and Joe Louis Nutt.  All of these children built lives and careers that did not involve the family enterprise. 

Euna continued as owner and oversaw operations of the hotel during some very lean years.  Travel by rail had dried up with the postwar automobile boom, and Granbury in those pre-lake years had become like many small Texas towns- with few businesses and dwindling population.  Times were hard.  To generate income, Euna began to run the hotel more as a boarding house for older gentlemen.  As she grew older, she made the hard decision to sell the old hotel to local businessman Norman Strain and his wife Jewel in 1964.  But all was not lost.  Euna’s son Joe Louis Nutt and her niece, Mary Lou Watkins, returned to Granbury, having made their lives and fortunes elsewhere.  Euna lived to see their purchase and renovation of the hotel and it’s designation as a Texas Historical Landmark.  Euna died in 1975 at the age of  97.


Joe and Lu Nutt

Joe Lewis Nutt was the youngest child of Henry and Euna Nutt.  He grew up in Granbury, and married Cora Lee Conner of San Angelo in 1940.  Joe and Cora lived in Dallas, where he tried several endeavors before building a successful company in the then thriving educational film business.  They had one daughter, Jennie.  Cora died in 1966 and Joe sold his film company and retired. 

Looking for a change after his wife’s death, Joe moved to a small town near Denver, Colorado. There he met and married his second wife, Lu, in 1967. They loved their life there and were active in the community, and in the Denver theatre and arts scene. But something kept calling Joe Nutt to come home.  Finally in 1968, after a visit to Granbury to see his mother, Euna and his niece Mary Lou Watkins, Joe and Lu made their decision to move back.

Inspired by the restoration project Mary Lou had begun on the old family home, and intrigued by the possibilities presented by the soon to be reality of Lake Granbury, Joe and Lu bought a lot down the street from the old home place and built a house. Not just any ordinary house either, it was a split level native rock house with palatial rooms, a view of the Lambert Branch creek, and an indoor swimming pool! Clearly Joe and Lu were home to stay and they set about to see how they could follow in the time honored Nutt family tradition of community involvement.

Joe’s first “project” was partnering with Mary Lou Watkins bringing the old Nutt Hotel property back into the family. They bought it back from Norman and Jewel Strain, and set about turning it into a viable business.

With Mary Lou firmly at the helm of that project, Joe and Lu turned their attention to the other side of the Granbury Square. Lu, a talented musician and patron of the arts, was intrigued by the possibilities presented by the old Granbury Opera House building, built in 1886 by Donald Kerr. In it’s turn of the century heyday, the second floor of the building with the red tin roof had been the cultural mecca for a thriving community. Now it sat, abandoned, dilapidated, caved-in roof and broken windows open to the broad Texas sky. Yet, to Joe and Lu it represented a vision of what Granbury had been once, and could become again- a thriving, prosperous gathering place for folks from all around.

So, Joe and Lu, and their friends Judge Jack and Dora Lee Langdon, and couple of others met and cobbled together a plan. They arranged to purchase the old Opera House building and then gave it to their newly formed foundation- The Granbury Opera House Association. And the rest, as they say, is history. With little funding up front, and no real idea of how much it might take, they rallied the community, inspired volunteers, got cash and labor and got materials donated. Joe formed a serendipitous business relationship with veteran performer and showman Jo Ann Miller, who came to Granbury for the weekend to play golf, and ended up staying for a lifetime. Joe and Lu and Jo Ann formed an indomitable team dedicated to making the Granbury Opera House the premier live theatre in the North Texas area.  In making that goal a working reality, they breathed life back into the Granbury that Joe had loved all his life. Joe became known as “the father of the Granbury Opera House”.

After the Opera House was secure, Joe pursued a lifelong dream of owning Comanche Peak, the flat topped mesa that was sacred to the local Native Americans, and a landmark seen for the first time by his ancestors who came here so many years ago. His love for the town, the area and the land is reflected in this quote:

“As a small boy growing up… I loved to come with my parents back to Granbury,” Nutt recalled. “On the road from Cresson, you come through a gap in the hills, framed by trees – and there, spread out before you, is this valley of the “River of the Many Arms of God.” On the horizon, dominating it all, is the long, blue shadow of this mountain. It’s best on a clear day, when you can see over perhaps a dozen counties from this summit.”

We like to think that Joe is still looking down on us here- and still enjoying the view.


Mary Lou Watkins

Mary Louise Faulkner Watkins, was the grand-daughter of David and Sudie Nutt.  Mary Lou was the daughter of Mary Sue Nutt Faulkner and Louis Faulkner.  Mary Lou left Granbury in as a young woman to pursue a career in modeling.  She was a hat maker, model, published author, active churchwoman, and mother of three sons.  

In 1967 she returned to Granbury to care for her ailing mother and elderly aunt Euna.   Mary Lou moved into big but ramshackle old family home on Bridge Street, and shortly thereafter undertook the restoration of that house to its former grandeur.  In the beginning, she probably never dreamed that that restoration would be the spark that would kindle a fire of historic preservation and restoration that would transform a whole community!

A couple of years after Mary Lou returned to Granbury and began her project with the family home, another Nutt, her cousin- Joe Louis Nutt, also moved back to town.  Inspired by the success of her project, Joe and Mary Lou joined forces to purchase the Nutt Hotel property on the square which had been sold out of the family only a few years before.  

The old hotel and the square around it were in sad shape.  The years of wartime, economic depression, and the migration of many young people to the cities had taken their toll.  But there was an upside to that poverty and lack of development.  Where others saw only empty storefronts, dilapidated buildings, and broken dreams, Mary Lou and Joe saw a diamond in the rough- and a preservationist’s dream-  historic buildings mostly unaltered from their original design and structure!  The fact that none of the building owners had been able to update and modernize their buildings made the Granbury square, sitting as it did above the shores of a sparkling, rapidly filling new lake, a prime spot for future growth and development.  And there was the opportunity to “do it right” – to develop and preserve an authentic Victorian downtown square!  “I thought the town should remain in the mainstream of history…, a living, breathing community,” is how Mary Lou described their vision.  

The next step was to renovate the Nutt Hotel building.  While Joe focused on his own big project across the square, Mary Lou set out to do just that.  She started with the outside of the building – restoring the stone work, removing the ugly evaporative coolers and installing central heat and air.  The downstairs was converted into a spacious lobby which opened into what soon became the famous Nutt House Dining Room featuring homestyle cooking with a bakery in the other front room downstairs.  As the tenants upstairs moved on, she took that project room by room, first housing some small gift shops upstairs, and then when she was ready, opening the whole floor back up as a small, quaint bed and breakfast inn.  The Nutt Hotel was serving up hospitality to tourists and friends once again!!!  

Mary Lou’s success and her and Joe’s staunch support and encouragement of other prominent citizens motivated others to start projects of their own.  By 1974, Granbury’s town square was the first in Texas to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.  Beginning in 1986 with the publication of the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street Handbook, Granbury’s historic preservation achievements and heritage tourism programs have been used as models throughout the state. “Brought back to life by a group of concerned and dedicated local citizens, Granbury is often referred to as Texas’ original ‘Main Street’ city, says the commission’s handbook. 
Mary Lou continued to oversee the operation of the Hotel and Dining room well past the normal age of retirement.  Always an advocate for both small town business and small town hospitality, she left an imprint on this small Texas town that will never be forgotten.  After her death in 2001, the town honored her memory with a bronze statue in her honor placed appropriately right across the street from the Hotel!  It evokes, even now warm memories of the days not so long ago when Mary Lou would stand outside of the hotel donned in an apron, and ring her signature bell- letting everyone know that dinner was on the table with her signature chicken and dumplings, hot-water cornbread and buttermilk pie, and all were welcome!