Darragh house carved from Marble Falls history

Historic Darragh house in Marble Falls

LEFT: Rosa Darragh stands on the front steps of her granite home at 501 Main Street in Marble Falls. The picture is believed to have been taken on Mother’s Day sometime in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of The Falls on the Colorado Museum RIGHT: Kim Lookabaugh stands in the same spot on the property she now owns and where she operates her business, My Texas Home Broker. Photo by Ronnie Madrid/Divine Radiance Photography

If the ghost of Rosa Darragh haunts the pink granite house at 501 Main Street in Marble Falls, she’s a friendly one, according to new owner Kim Lookabaugh, who recently opened My Texas Home Broker in the historic residence. 

“We think Ms. Rosa might still be here,” Lookabaugh said. “Every time something weird happens — something falls down off a shelf or there’s a weird noise we can’t explain — we definitely say, ‘That must be Ms. Rosa.’”

The house was built in 1935 for Rosa after her husband, Thomas Darragh Jr., died that same year. A co-owner of Granite Mountain, he and Rosa lived in a large, two-story house at the quarry. Her children wanted her in town so she wouldn’t have to drive so far every day to a dry goods store she owned and operated.

“It was on the west side of Main Street where the flower shop is now,” said Ann Darragh of Marble Falls. “I think it was called Darragh’s Dry Goods.” 

Ann is married to Rosa and Thomas’ grandson Bob Darragh. She was referring to the location where Marble Falls Flower and Gift Shop now resides at 214 Main Street between Second and Third streets.

A New Yorker, Thomas Darragh Jr. bought Granite Mountain in partnership with Robert Caterson in 1903. Darragh moved to Marble Falls to run the quarry, which the co-owners named the Texas and New York Granite Company. Caterson soon sold his half to Robert Clark, and the name changed to Texas Pink Granite Company.

Built on a hill, the Granite House faces the mountain, which can be easily seen from its expansive front porch. Even the steps up to the front door are made of granite, cut from the same batholith quarried by convicts for the state Capitol in Austin.  

Unlike the large blocks of stone used to construct the statehouse, the rock used to build 501 Main Street came from rubble obtained free from the mountain. Quarry managers heaped chunks of broken granite into a pile for anyone who could haul it away. Several homes and fences can be found around Marble Falls, built from that free scrap. 

Unlike any other house in the city, the three-bedroom structure on Main Street has a basement, unusual in an area with such a rocky terrain. The basement had its own entrance on the south side of the house.

“When the dams were being built on the Colorado, (Rosa) sometimes moved into the basement of the house and rented out apartments or rooms to the workers,” reads the caption for a picture of Rosa Darragh on page 81 of “Images of America: Marble Falls” by Jane Knapik and Amanda Rose.

A solid home, even the inside walls are rock. Instead of drywall, the interior walls and ceiling are all mortar. The rooms are large with 10-foot ceilings. All of the original wood floors are still intact.

Another surprise can be found in the kitchen.

“It still has the original kitchen,” Lookabaugh pointed out when giving The Picayune Magazine a tour of the space. “And there’s an iron hitching post outside for tying up your horse.” 

The countertop along one wall of the kitchen was installed in 1940. The counters are small, white ceramic tiles; the backsplash is done in larger, dazzling green tiles. Cabinets are white with retro black iron hardware.

Of course, the plumbing and wiring were replaced years ago. Lookabaugh even had to upgrade that to turn the residential property into a commercial enterprise. That took some imagination — and drilling — when it came to lighting since wires could not be run through solid walls. 

Another definite plus from the sturdy materials used: no need for extra insulation.

“The energy efficiency is very good,” Lookabaugh said. “It’s well insulated with solid rock. There’s no other insulation.”

The bedrooms were turned into offices, and an old closet became a work room. Knocking out closet space resulted in a funny little hallway area that connects a side room to a front room in a short zig-zag — another creative quirk that separates it from most other houses in town, not to mention its very own ghost. 

When asked about stories of a ghost, Ann and Bob Darragh said they had never heard anything like that mentioned before.

“I wouldn’t be surprised though,” Bob said with a laugh.

Lookabaugh likes to think Ms. Rosa is indeed sharing the house with her and her business. 

“She’s certainly not a scary ghost,” Lookabaugh said. “This house has the best feeling. People who walk in here just love it.”

As for Ms. Rosa, she is buried in Marble Falls City Cemetery next to her husband. Her grave is marked with the same Texas pink granite that made her living and built her home. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com

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