A beautiful, 2-story, 3700 square foot home was built on the site of what was previously the McIlvaney Academy which was claimed by fire in 1919. We call this home “Vanderbilt Place.” With its hardwood floors, French doors, claw foot tubs, five fireplaces and high ceilings, one would be hard pressed to find a finer place to rent for a special occasion.
In 1920, the home which is presently located on the site was built. In an article which the local newspaper was kind enough to run, I asked if anyone knew anything at all of the home’s history if they would please call me. One elderly gentleman said the house was owned by a family with the last name of Henry and that the house was always “crawling with children.”
Another woman I met said she boarded there while in college.
I heard from another man who said his mother ran the house as a boarding home for college boys back in the 1940’s and 50’s. He said, in those days, there was another structure on the property – a garage apartment – which he and his brothers slept in. I was told by the previous owner’s son that there was indeed a garage apartment on the property. He said, though his father tore that structure down around 1999 or 2000, it was not beyond repair.
One humorous call came from a man who said the entrance to the kitchen used to be all glass but, when he was a kid, he was throwing a ball indoors and broke the glass, “a day,” he added, chuckling, “that will live in infamy.” That fellow added that his dad had installed some sort of a spring-loaded contraption designed to raise and lower garbage cans as “dogs, cats and varmints were everywhere in those days.” He said that there was no reason to ever remove the device and that, chances are, it’s still buried there till this day.
One day, two white-haired and well-to-do ladies dropped by the house. They said they were from Granbury and were part of the Henry family that once lived there. In fact, when the house was “crawling with children,” they were part of that group. The ladies were very kind and had many nice things to say about how we were decorating the house. One lady was even moved to tears. They explained how the house was always a rooming house of one kind or another, and showed us how the room that we now know as the kitchen used to be a small apartment. The master bathroom is now blocking what was once the back door, a straight shot from the front door. The French doors we see at the end of the downstairs foyer weren’t always there as those same doors once divided the living room from the master bedroom. The ladies recalled how they used to have dances on the front porch and told of how they were related to the great American Statesman, Patrick Henry of “Give me liberty or give me death” fame.
One night, as I was affixing numbers over the upstairs bedrooms, I could not help but notice that there were already nail holes there from previous room numbers. Though we’re certain the house has undergone a number of renovations in its 85-year history, we are quite proud of the fact that we are remaining true to the original uses and purpose of the building, i.e., providing a comfortable, sweet-spirited place where people can lay their head at the end of the day.