Haunted Thistle Hill in Texas

image from: http://www.historicfortworth.org

image from: http://www.historicfortworth.org

This is another reader requested beauty. Bren asked me if I could put together a post on the historic home where her mother was once a docent.

Thistle Hill is located on a prominent crest in Fort Worth, Texas. Bren spent a lot of time there as a youngster and has some stories to tell. Bren also generously let me use some of her personal photos of the house.

photo courtesy of Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Thistle Hill is a magnificent brick Georgian Revival style house built between 1903-1904. The home was commissioned by wealthy cattle baron William Thomas (“Tom”) Waggoner as a wedding gift for his daughter Electra (Waggoner) Wharton. It was Electra who named the home “Thistle Hill”.

Interestingly, the house was originally built in a Colonial style but after it was sold in 1911, the new owner decided to renovate the not-even-a-decade-old house and added major Georgian Revival architectural elements.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Today Thistle Hill is used as a venue for weddings and special events. Their tag-line is:

“Experience the luxurious Cattle Baron lifestyle within the walls of Fort Worth’s first landmark”

The main house is 11,000 square feet and has 18 rooms. In the early 1900’s it cost around $45,000 to build. Though it has not been used as a private residence for decades, there have long been rumors of apparitions of the original occupants who supposedly still haunt the house.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

The handsome structure is impeccably well-kept today, but that wasn’t always the case.

The estate was sold in 1940 for only $17,500 to the Girl’s Service League of Fort Worth. That agency used Thistle Hill as a dormitory for underprivileged girls until it was sold again in 1968.

The subsequent owners allowed the estate to stand empty for years and it inevitably fell into disrepair.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

In 1975 a historic preservation committee was formed to save the building from further ruin and possible demolition. The group raised money, spearheaded a methodical restoration, and eventually purchased the house.

By 1977, Thistle Hill had been restored to its 1912 condition and was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. It is now also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

In 2005 the entire property was gifted to Historic Fort Worth, Inc. (a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to historic preservation). This organization continues ongoing restoration work on the home which is paid for by tours and by renting out the estate as an event center.

Have a look inside…

Thistle Hill

image from: http://www.historicfortworth.org

Reports of ghost sightings began in the 1970’s when restorations first began. Old house lovers and paranormal buffs will know that this phenomenon is not unusual. Territorial spirits are typically peeved when you mess with their space!

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

One of the most common sightings is a ghostly figure of a woman dressed in a long white gown who appears on the landing of the grand staircase (pictured above). This is unsettling, I’m sure, for any potential brides scoping out this place for a wedding venue.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

There have also been reports of a man with a handle-bar moustache dressed in a period tennis outfit! Another incident of note was when restoration workers heard music coming from the third floor which has been closed off for decades.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Bren’s own mother experienced some unusual things while working at Thistle Hill. She said she heard unexplained footsteps when nobody was there, she smelled the scent of flowers when there were none, and she had the sensation that someone was watching her.

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Bren also shared the following tidbits with me:

The boiler and furnace are still intact downstairs and the coal chute still has bits of coal in it. There is also a clubhouse in the rafters of the carriage house that was built by some of the children who used to live there – not many people know about it, but I used to go up there when I was a kid. Also, when I was about 15, we found an opening in the foundation and I was able to craw inside the brickwork of the house, which was really exciting for me.

No worries Bren, House Crazy Sarah did things like that when she was young too! (Heck, she still does!)

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Some of the rooms not pictured include the closed-off third floor ballroom, the bedrooms with Birdseye Maple and Mahogany finishes, and the library with leather walls and wedding ring patterned bookcases.
I am sensing a definite matrimonial theme in this house.
photo courtesy of:  Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Perhaps Electra – the home’s original mistress – is put out by the fact that other brides now walk through her house!
photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Bren also tells me that the house was hit by a bad hail storm about 12 years ago which severely damaged the hand-glazed terracotta tiled roof. The tiles were very pricey to replace and had to be special-ordered from Europe.
Many of the broken pieces were given to various local artists and artisans to create with.” You can see some of the results of their work here.
photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

I really love the vintage bathrooms of Thistle Hill (thank you Bren for including some photos of them!)

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Have a closer look at that dainty light-fixture:
photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

And this old sink that mercifully, was not torn-out over the years:
photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Thistle Hill is absolutely exquisite, despite its reputation for being haunted. But that makes it even more special in my eyes.
There is one thing, however, that really bothers me about this historic property:
photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

photo courtesy of: Bren Coombs

Yes, RIGHT behind the restored carriage house is a large, newer multi-story building. Bren says it is so close to the carriage house that you can probably reach over and touch each building at the same time!

But alas, the new building you see in the background is the Cook Children’s Hospital, so I can’t be too bitter about that. They take care of sick kiddos, after all. And hey, my philosophy is that we all need to learn to coexist.

:)

~~~

Sources:

http://www.historicfortworth.org/Rentals/ThistleHill/tabid/379/Default.aspx

http://www.tgaa.org/tgaa/scrapbbok_thistle_hill_8-03.html

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7yg3gcwbcq7gvpp/YCCOMhM8ID

http://ghoststories.brazoriaresearch.com/2012/02/26/the-ghosts-at-thistle-hill

 

[Special thanks to Bren for telling me about this house and sharing Thistle Hill photos with me!]

 

 

 

8 Comments

  • Sel says:

    A special thank you to both, what an exquisite post….love, love…..you see,
    i am sure all are wondering the same thing i am….that is; what will do without
    you? ‘sniff’

  • Bren says:

    Great post. Thanks for letting others know about this house that I love. It’s really beautiful around Christmas, as you can see from some of the decor.

  • Sue says:

    Loved the tour and thank you to Bren. Get a load of those golden chairs! My jaw dropped at the wide stairway and liked the dainty lighting in the bathroom.

  • livewire1965 says:

    I wanna Inspect that ! since it has some interesting history and that opening behind the brick.:)

  • Suzan S. says:

    That is shocking that it sold for only $17,500. in 1940 !….I wonder where some of those girls are now. It would be fascinating to ask what condition the house was in then and about any ghost sightings……
    Even though it is a children’s hospital now that is right behind the carriage house, owners change or rebuild bigger somewhere else.
    I hope that property has an ironclad membership in the preservation society there.

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