Headline News
Go Back

More on Hilltop Hacienda fire

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

One of Bandera County's hidden gems was almost completely destroyed when fire raged through the 70-year-old historic Doane House - now known as Hilltop Hacienda, located off Highway 16 South.
The afternoon of Monday, Nov. 17, Michael Goodale, who owns the bed and breakfast with his wife, Mary, thought the sun was setting even sooner than usual. He noticed the room was darkening at a rapid clip with what he described as a "gray fog." Soon, however, Goodale realized that the hacienda was rapidly filling with smoke and flames were coming from the fireplace in the main room.
Mary Goodale was in the kitchen when her husband yelled at her that their house was on fire. The couple quickly exited the burning structure.
According to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, the fire was called in to emergency dispatch at approximately 3:45 pm. Reporting volunteer fire departments included Medina Lake, Castle Lake, Pipe Creek, Bandera, Lakeshore, Tarpley and Medina. Also assisting were EMS, law enforcement officers with the City of Bandera and deputies with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office. No first responders were reported injured. However, later when attempting to put out drapery fire with a garden hose, Michael Goodale suffered a burn on the arch of his foot.
Main house
In an interview on Thursday, Nov. 20, Stith indicated that an investigation had pinpointed the fire's origin as in a bedroom located in the front area of the home's first floor. He expressed concerns about the use of extension cords and an electric heater. In an interview on Monday, Oct. 24, Mary Goodale said that she had been told that a plug attached to a commercial extension cord had malfunctioned, causing the blaze.
According to Stith, the fire destroyed about 80 percent of the two-story main house. "It was a challenging fire to fight," he said. "The metal roof kept the fire contained, making the second floor very unstable. Firefighters had to be very careful."
Stith also noted, "Firefighters planned to attack the fire aggressively in the interior portion but because of the construction design of the house, it proved difficult." The main portion of the horseshoe-shaped house is two stories while one-story wings jut out 40 to 50 feet, Stith explained. "Fire had consumed the two-story area and spread to the attic portion. However, it did not invade the lower part of the house," he said.
Firefighters, along with the owners and others, safely removed some furniture but the couple's extensive collection of antiques was completely destroyed, according to Mary Goodale.
Prior to purchasing Hilltop Hacienda on March 3, 2003 "in the third millennium," the Goodales had carefully selected antique European and Early American beds, tables, desks and chairs to complement the mansion.
Ugly incident
However, the work of responding firefighters, law enforcement officers and medical personnel was marred by an incident that ended with a bystander being tased, arrested and transported to the Bandera County Jail.
When BCSO Cpl. DJ Nowlin arrived at the emergency at approximately 3:37 pm, he noticed an unidentified woman attempting to enter the burning building. Michael Goodale was using a water hose to quell the blaze. In the interest of public safety, Nowlin asked a gathering crowd to stand back and "get out of the way of the fire department."
After determining there were no occupants in the burning building, he turned off the electricity and assisted EMS, who were apparently treating a white male who appeared to be suffering from smoke inhalation.
For a second time, however, Nowlin was forced to asked the crowd to "maintain a safe distance" from the burning structure. According to a law enforcement report, at this point, Mary Goodale became upset because she felt it was taking too long for fire departments to arrive on the scene. In fact, it appeared to Nowlin that the crowd was angry with him for the delay, the report noted.
However, in her interview, Mary Goodale freely admitted she was screaming that her house was burning down and she felt "law enforcement was just watching it burn. I kept asking them why wasn't the fire department there yet," she said. According to Mary Goodale, the deputy had, in fact, threatened to arrest her if she didn't calm down. "He said, 'If you don't shut up, I'm going to arrest you'."
At that time, Eric Hornbeek, allegedly interjected himself into the incident, which then escalated rapidly. According the Chief Deputy Matt King, Hornbeek "challenged" Nowlin and became disorderly. When Nowlin attempted to arrest Hornbeek, the man became "belligerent and unruly" and a fight allegedly ensued, forcing Nowlin to taser Hornbeek. After being tasered, Hornbeek purportedly spit on Nowlin and continued to use "colorful metaphors, laced with profanity," King said.
After being transported to the county jail, Hornbeek was charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication, failing to ID, resisting arrest and assault of a public servant.
After being magistrated by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Lynn Holt, Hornbeek was reportedly taken to a hospital by his father.
'God-driven purchase'
Currently, the Goodales are living in one of three units in the former carriage house, but they are making plans to rebuild the main house. "It was God-driven to purchase this house," she said. "I couldn't rest until we got it."
The Doane House has a rich history that stretches back through the decades. In the 1940s, Chicago multi-millionaire Foster Baird Doane purchased 4,500 acres of land stretching from Medina Lake to Polly Peak. He raised quarter horses and thoroughbreds on his sprawling ranch. Today, the acreage had shrunk to about 10 acres with the majority of the original tract making up what is now Bandera River Ranch subdivision.
The centerpiece of Doane's Texas retreat was a 6,500 square foot mansion that took over three years to complete. Two German stonemasons constructed precision-fit, 15-inch thick native limestone exterior walls and unique chimneys and alcoves.
Eight individual fireplaces served the seven-bedroom hacienda with an eighth acting as a focal point that dominated the 18-foot by 65-foot La Sala Grande which also boasted a 13-foot ceiling. That fireplace, said to have been designed by Doane's fellow Chicagoan, Frank Lloyd Wright, is a massive, asymmetrical limestone creation, equipped with built-in vents that convect heat outward on three sides. It also featured a meticulously handcarved wooden plaque centered above the hearth, placed there by the original owner.
Prior to purchasing Hilltop Hacienda, Michael and Mary Goodale were living in Kansas City, Missouri where they had a horse and carriage service. The couple's collection of antique carriages are still safely ensconced in a restored barn on the property.
"Michael also had a home in San Antonio so I married a Texan," Mary Goodale said. "I loved the Hill Country and that's how we were led to the Doane House. The fire was a tragedy, but God seems to have another plan for us now."