Hood County Texas Genealogical Society
Mary Lou Watkins
Granbury's preservation leader dies
by KATHY SMITH
She was a mother and an author, a
restaurateur and an innkeeper, and the grand matriarch of Granbury historic
Mary Lou Watkins, 83, whose vision and dream
of restoring her hometown brought about the Granbury as we know it, died
Tuesday morning [January 30, 2001] in Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after a
In the late 1960s, Mary Lou returned to
Granbury and the house in which she was born and carried on the pioneer spirit
first felt in Granbury in the 1870s by her grandfather, David Nutt, and his
brothers Jacob and Jesse Nutt.
After restoring her grandfather's home, she
restored the historic Nutt House Hotel and Dining Room on the northeast corner
of the square. It opened for business in 1970 with what Mary Lou referred to as
"good country cooking."
But Mary Lou was never one to sit on the
bleachers; rather she was one of Granbury's most powerful players in the game
of historic preservation and restoration.
Along with a handful of concerned citizens,
such as Jeannine Macon and the late "Sis" Henslee and Joe Nutt, Mary
Lou's dream was to put Granbury on the map as a tourist destination and she
knew that historic preservation of the 100-year-old square was the way to do
"Mary Lou had a great vision of what we
needed to do for Granbury," states Diane Lock, Mary Lou's friend and
co-historian. "She was the force that brought about the statewide
recognition Granbury has now."
Mary Lou was instrumental in having the
historic square recognized by the Texas Historical Commission and the achievements
she gained at the Nutt House Hotel and Dining Room motivated other building
owners to renovate the rest of the square in the years that followed.
Friend and fellow Granbury Historic
Commission member Claudia Southern remembered the spirit Mary Lou imparted to
those around her. "Mary Lou was instrumental in saving the Granbury square
from some plans for demolition, and recruited an army of supporters who
followed her spirit and lead in making our square the model for the Main Street
Program in Texas."
One of Mary Lou's strongest supporters and
fellow workers was Jeannine Macon. The two wore many hats in the early days of
tourism on the historic square.
"We were the chamber of commerce and the
tourism office for the square," Macon said proudly in a Hood County News
interview last year. "Mary Lou was involved with tourism on the state
level and Granbury won many awards (because of Mary Lou)."
Mary Lou not only spurred others on to share
her dream, she worked diligently to promote her own business, the Nutt House
Hotel and Dining Room.
For close to 30 years, people frequented the
Nutt House for heaping helpings of chicken and dumplings, hot water cornbread,
black-eyed pea salad and buttermilk pie. And many times, Mary Lou visited with
the customers standing in the buffet line, then retreated behind the counter to
serve them herself.
"Thank goodness we had Mary Lou and her
tenacity," says Bob Brockman, former Granbury city manager. "If you
wanted something done to completion, all you had to do was give it to Mary Lou.
"She was like a little bulldog,"
laughs Brockman. "When she set her mind to something, you'd better get out
of her way, because it was going to happen! I loved her to death."
Mary Lou is survived by three sons and three
grandchildren. Services are pending.
Hood County News 02/01/2001
GRANBURY -- Mary Lou Watkins, 83, businesswoman, community leader
and longtime promoter of historic preservation, died in her sleep in Dallas on
Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2001.
Memorial service: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10,
at Tarleton State University Cultural and Educational Center, 308 E. Bridge
St., Granbury. Burial: Granbury Cemetery. Visitation: Friends will be received
at her home after the memorial service.
Memorials: The family requests that memorials
be directed to the Granbury Opera House Preservation Fund, Box 297, Granbury,
Texas 76048; or Hood County Historical Society Scholarship Fund, Box 482,
Granbury, Texas 75048.
Mary Lou was always a rare combination of
listener, dreamer, tireless worker and motivator. During her early life she was
a fashion model, saleswoman, author, mother, housewife, church and community
volunteer, but she is most widely known for her work in Granbury.
Mary Lou returned to Granbury from Dallas in
the late 1960s to restore the house in which she and her mother were born.
After reopening the Nutt Hotel and Nutt House Dining Room, she recognized the
economic success of her business, and her hometown, lay in the neglected beauty
of the unspoiled town square and county courthouse.
Mary Lou and a small number of similarly
resolute townspeople led the restoration of the limestone structures of the
square. They assured the historic site's future integrity through official
designation by state and national agencies. Their dreams, adaptive reuse of
these structures and their ability to preserve the spirit of the small-town
Texas life generated national recognition and a tourism economy for Granbury.
Mary Lou attended the University of Texas
where she was a member of Chi Omega. She was a member of St. Michael and All
Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas, where, before her work in Granbury, she
taught Sunday school and was deeply involved in parish affairs. She co-authored
with Ann Jensen a historical novel about Dr. Franz Mesmer, edited the book
"Horse Tradin'" by Ben K. Green and wrote and edited children's stories.
Mary Lou was preceded in death by Louis
Ransom and Charles Lee Watkins Jr.
Survivors: Her sons, Arthur Kent Ransom and
wife, Jeanie, Charles Lee Watkins and wife, Pamela, and David Louis Watkins,
M.D., and wife, Lori, all of Dallas; grandchildren, Shannon Ashley Watkins,
Jennifer Leigh Watkins and Charles David Watkins; and cousin, King Hiram
Faulkner of Granbury.
Martin's Funeral Home
Granbury, (817) 573-1154
~ Web Page by Virginia Hale ~
HOOD COUNTY TEXAS GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY