Words by Tui Snider

Photography by Stephanie Fisher

Strange as it sounds, one of my favorite things about Heavenhill Guesthouse (620 E Bridge St, Granbury, TX 76048) is how it hides in plain sight. Although the street and mailbox are clearly marked and my GPS found it easily, friends who visited during my stay inevitably drove right past this unique guest cottage their first time over, as if the property were shielded by a faerie spell. 

The location, although seemingly hidden, is actually quite convenient. Heavenhill Guesthouse is in Granbury’s historic district, just a few steps from Hewlett Park (650 E State Loop 426, Granbury, TX 76048) and the Dollhouse Museum (421 E Bridge St, Granbury, TX 76048.) With restaurants, shops and the town square an easy 15 minute walk down the street, I was perfectly comfortable staying without a car. (Although during the Last Saturday Art Walk, a free shuttle picked me up on my stroll to the art galleries. Just one of many pleasant surprises during my stay in Granbury!)

While the location is ideal, let’s make something clear. If you want to spend your days watching television and keeping up with social media, Heavenhill Guesthouse is not for you. For starters, there’s no WIFI or cable TV. But if you are looking for a respite from the hectic pace of modern life, a chance to unplug without going completely off the grid, a stay here could be just the tonic you need. 

Another important consideration is that Heavenhill is not a bed and breakfast. This means you are responsible for feeding yourself, whether you choose to dine out or make your own meals in the fully equipped kitchen. While I enjoy bed and breakfast inns, I’m always aware of being a guest in someone’s home. At Heavenhill, you truly have the place to yourself, so before long, it actually feels like you live there. No one is going to pop in to change linens or tell you that breakfast is only available at a certain time. You can keep crazy hours and fry eggs at 3:00 a.m. if you wish.

Unlike some historic homes, with rooms so antique laden they feel like a museum, at Heavenhill Guesthouse I felt perfectly entitled to kick off my shoes and plop on the couch after a sweaty walk in the August sun, grab some iced tea and relax. In other words, I was right at home. 

Heavenhill Guesthouse owes this cozy ambiance to the careful landscaping and interior design work of its current owner, Shelbie Miller-Gaddy. Shelbie was still in high school when her mother, Jennifer Miller, bought Heavenhill in 2002. It was a real fixer upper at the time, a rundown house on an overgrown lot. One day, while cleaning the attic, Shelbie discovered a handwritten message on the wall reading, “Josephine Heavenhill + Little Louise Miller Jan. 1, 1897. Cross of the Heart.” Although not related by blood, the shared name “Miller” and the mysterious inscription stirred something in Shelbie. From that point on she felt a bond to the house and a keen interest in its history.

Conveniently located, yet seemingly hidden, Heavenhill Guesthouse allows you to unplug without going completely off the grid.

Shelbie’s experience at Heavenhill inspired her choices at Texas Tech, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in interior design with a minor in architecture. Throughout her college years, Heavenhill was never far from her mind and she often found pieces for the house at antique stores and estate sales. In 2011, Shelbie’s mother gave her the property. It was little more than an empty shell at the point, but after several months of of intensive remodeling Shelbie Miller-Gaddy was able to open it to guests.

While combining rustic charm with modern comforts, Shelbie’s design choices keep Heavenhill’s history on display. The window panes, for instance, are all original and if you look closely, you can find square nails and beadboard throughout the dwelling. Another deliberate choice is the panel labeled “O.G. Compton and Co.” on the wall separating the kitchen from the living room. The builders most likely obtained this board from leftover railway packing crates, a common practice by settlers in the 1890’s. 

I’ve stayed at Heavenhill Guesthouse twice now. My first time was as the writer-in-residence for Tarleton State University’s literary conference, the Langdon Review Weekend. This annual event provides one lucky writer the opportunity to focus on their projects in a peaceful setting for two glorious weeks. 

Not only did my writing residency at Heavenhill Guesthouse give me time and space to create, but it was the most unplugged I have been in years. Each morning, I had coffee and breakfast on the back porch, where I could watch squirrels and birds frolic in the bushes and pecan trees. I spent my evenings out there, too, either reading books or playing guitar in my favorite rocking chair. Texas summers being what they are, I spent the hottest hours of the day inside, and I’m happy to report that despite the many vintage touches throughout Heavenhill, its air conditioning is state of the art. It really was a wonderful stay. I got a lot of writing done, read several books and even wrote a couple of songs.

While Heavenhill Guesthouse is a wonderful space for creative retreats, I had no lofty ambitions during my second stay. This time, my husband and I shared the cottage with another couple during one of Granbury’s many festivals. It was a fun weekend getaway. We arranged for a late check out and spent the morning on the porch, chatting and drinking coffee.

While there are separate bath and shower facilities, and two couples can easily share Heavenhill Guesthouse, I would only want to stay there with people I know. It’s perfectly cozy and fun to share the living room and kitchen with friends, but I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable doing so with strangers. That said, Heavenhill is ideal for a family or group of friends who want a memorable weekend together. 

Thanks again to Shelbie Miller-Gaddy’s landscaping and design, Heavenhill Guesthouse is a photogenic location, both inside and out. For those in need of charming backdrops for graduation or engagement photos, the historic home is available for day use. In fact, some of my favorite photos from last year are ones I took of my husband and his family by the chicken coop in the backyard. I only wish I had taken more!

To plan your stay at Heavenhill Guesthouse, please visit its Facebook page and website.