Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 
Burcham (W. J.) House
Historical Marker

Georgetown, Texas

circa 1906

click on thumbnail image for an enlarged view
Dr. W. J. Burcham House
1310 College Street

 

GPS Coordinates
Latitude: 30.63098 - Longitude: -97.67314
Latitude: 30°37.8588" Longitude: -97°40.3884"
UTM 14 R - Easting: 627161 - Northing: 3389457

 

 

Commissioned by a local dentist, this home combines the building skills of lumberman C.S. Griffith of the Griffith Lumber Company with the design talents of Austin architect C.H. Page. It shares with 1415 Ash the distinction of being a professionally designed residential building and is one of only three Georgetown historic homes to feature a gambrel roof. The multi-light window and door treatment is also noteworthy.


Marker Text

Designed by noted Austin architect Charles H. Page, this home was built for the family of Georgetown dentist William Joseph Burcham (1876-1932) in 1908-09. Both Dr. Burcham and his wife Mayme (1882-1962) were civic and cultural leaders of the community. Features of the Dutch Colonial Revival home include a cross gambrel roof, square brick piers, wraparound porch, and shingled gable ends. The home remained in the Burcham family until 1981. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1988


Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - RTHL Medallion


 
 

 

Burcham House
narrative by
Dan K. Utley and David W. Moore

Written by: Dan K. Utley

 

In the first decade of the twentieth century, those traits that today define the unique quality of life in Georgetown were beginning to develop. Business activity from 1900 to 1910 was influenced by the continued success of the cotton industry, the impact of the railroad, the steady growth of population in the Williamson County seat of government, and the expansion of the economic base. Social and cultural activities centered around Southwestern University, the public schools, and churches. Complementing the progressive atmosphere of the community was the backdrop of clear flowing streams, rugged limestone hills, and rich agricultural lands.

 

Among those attracted to Georgetown during the first decade of the twentieth century was a young dentist, Dr. William Joseph Burcham (b. 1876). A native of Marble Hill, Missouri, Burcham was educated at Will Mayfield College, Marvin Institute, and Central College, all Missouri schools. In 1904 he graduated from the Washington University School of Dentistry in St. Louis. Following graduation he moved to Georgetown, Texas, where his brother, Frank E. Burcham, was a professor at Southwestern University. Their sister, the wife of Dr. Talley, had also made Georgetown her home

 

Dr. Burcham was in Williamson County for about a year before he returned to his home state to wed his college sweetheart, Mayme Revelle. Born in 1882 to a family of prominence, she was a native of Lutesville, Missouri, a settlement near Burcham's hometown. The couple returned to Georgetown and, by 1908, began planning for construction of a family home. - 2

 

The couple chose the firm of C. H. Page to design the new residence - which was built in 1908-09. 3 The noted Austin architect, like Dr. Burcham, was born in Missouri in 1876. The son of a St. Louis stonemason and contractor, Page came with his family to Austin in 1888 and assisted his father with his work on the new State Capitol. C. H. Page received his professional training by working in successful architectural firms, traveling extensively throughout the United States. He became a prominent architect in his own right, designing such important existing structures as the Williamson County Courthouse, the Travis County Courthouse, and the Texas School for the Deaf, and the Georgetown High School (designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1988). It was during the latter project that Burcham and Page worked together once again; Burcham was a member of the School board when the building was constructed in the 1920s.'4

 

The Burcham residence features Colonial Revival influences in the roof line and the porch detailing. The cross-gambrel roof is supported by massive brick columns and one Doric column, and features broad eaves and simple brackets with bow front ends. Windows have 16 over 1 and 12 over 1 lights, and the main entry features a multi-paned door with transom and sidelights. The gable ends, important elements of the overall design, are shingled. The broad eaves cover an L-shaped front porch on the east and southeast elevations, outlined by a classical-detailed balustrade.

 

Very early in the family's ownership, changes were made to the original design. One important new feature was the dormer added to the south side. Evidently, the master bedroom on the second floor lacked Sufficient natural ventilation to escape the early morning light and heat that poured in from the east side. While the additional windows on the south elevation probably helped some, it appears they did not solve the problem completely; photos from the 1930s and 1940s show Mrs. Burcham had allowed an ivy plant to cover the east windows, giving a strange appearance to the second floor (see attached exhibits).

 

In addition to the new dormer, the home's brickwork, exterior wood trim, and shingled gables were painted white sometime in the 1930s. Mrs. Jane Rampy, a daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Burcham, could not recall a specific date for the change, but remembered that it was sometime before her school graduation in 1939. Photographs dating from the mid-1930s, clearly showing the painted brickwork and wood trim, support her statement (see attached exhibits).'5

 

Mrs. Rampy also provided important information about the grounds surrounding the home. She recalled a servant's quarters, chicken pens, an orchard of peach and plum trees, a vegetable garden on the northeast side, and a building that served as a garage and gymnasium. The latter, located a few feet west of the present garage, burned about 1937.’6

 

The massing, prominent sitting on an oversized town lot, and overall design of the residence at 1310 College reflected Dr. Burcham's success as a dentist. It also provided adequate living space for a growing family. The Burcham's had four children; Joseph Revelle Burcham, an attorney; John William Burcham, also an attorney; Mary Sue Burcham, a teacher and later a Red Cross professional; and Jane Revelle Burcham Rampy, also a teacher. ‘7

 

Mrs. Rampy remembers her father as a gentle man with a good sense of humor. She recalls that he worked long hours in his office on the second floor of a building on the south side of the courthouse square, but that he also knew how to relax by playing golf or by working on one of his two farms east of town. ‘8

 

In addition to his contributions as a successful Georgetown professional, Dr. Burcham was an active civic leader. He served as a member of the school board for many years and was a trustee and benefactor of the Methodist Church. He also provided leadership in the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club, and a wide variety of other civic and religious activities. Professionally, he was active in the Texas Dental Association and was chosen by its members to be included in the honorary assemblage known as the Goodfellows. He died of pneumonia in l932, and his front-page obituary in the Williamson County Sun reflected his standing in the community. Under a headline that labeled him a "Well-known Civic Worker and Friend of Public Schools," the article noted:

 

In public affairs and every civic movement for the advancement of Georgetown and the welfare of her institutions, Dr. Burcham took an active and zealous. part. Cultured, refined and thoughtful of those with whom he came in contact, he won the friendship of a large circle of friends who are grieved sorely at the closing of a life that has been of such vast benefit to his city and her institutions.

 

Mayme Revelle Burcham continued to live in the family home following her husband's death and she made it a centerpiece for functions related to her individual civic interests. Her activities included the Methodist Missionary Society, the Zeta Tau Alpha and Alpha Delta Pi sororities, and the Daniel Coleman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, for which she served as regent and as representative to several national congresses. She also served as president of the Woman's Club of Georgetown and as a member of the state board of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. ‘10

 

Mrs. Burcham was considered one of Georgetown's cultural and social leaders. Close friends who visited in her home, included Jessie Daniel Ames, the noted suffragette and anti-lynching advocate, and Laura Kuykendall, the dean of women at Southwestern University. It is probably through her friendship with Dean Kuykendall and through her years of service in the Methodist church that she became a strong supporter of activities and programs. at Southwestern. Her personal interests included travel, which she enjoyed with her sister who lived in St. Louis-11

 

When Mayme Revelle Burcham died in 1962, her obituary recalled that she "participated actively in the cultural development and environment of Georgetown." In addition, the article mentioned the family residence which had been so important to her "Their home on College Street which was built in 1908, has been a center of civic, social and educational activities for a period of more than fifty years." – 12

 

The Burcham House remained vacant for several years following Mayme's death. Eventually, the family decided to rent the property and in 1972 it became the home of Ann and Farley Snell. The Snells purchased the property in 1981 and they remain the current owners. Sympathetic to the historical integrity of the house, they have worked to preserve its early twentieth-century appearance, while making some interior modifications to accommodate modern conveniences. Air-conditioning, for example, has solved the problem of direct sunlight on the second floor windows of the east side. No longer is it necessary to drape them in ivy in an effort to offset the buildup of heat.

 

On the rear elevation of the home, the Snells have expanded the back wall to provide interior space for an enlarged kitchen. The alteration, not visible from the primary facade, fully utilized original window materials. The Snells have also constructed a separate garage-storage building near the site of the one that burned about 1937.

 

Recently the Snells completed maintenance work on the porch roof that required the replacement of rotted gable shingles. Working from historic photographs and from the plans of C. H. Page, they decided to return the gables to their original, unpainted state. The painted shingles were replaced by new wooden shingles that matched the exact dimensions of the historic material. As a result, the massive gables of the cross-gambrel roof once again reflect dramatically the original design of the architect. -13

 

The Burcham House remains an important landmark in Georgetown. Although it is a unique element in the architectural history of the city, few people know of its ties with a prominent Texas architect or of its significance within the context of Georgetown's cultural and social development in the first half of the twentieth century. An Official Texas Historical Marker would commemorate an interesting architectural element, as well as the family that made such lasting contributions to the quality of life in Georgetown.

 

Researched by:

Dan K. Utley and David W. Moore

Written by:

Dan K. Utley

Austin, Texas

May, 1988

 

 

END-NOTES

1-Williamson County Sun (Georgetown, Texas), January 15, 1932, p. 1; Jane Burcham Rampy, interview with Dan K. Utley (notes only), May 6, 1988.

 

2-Wiliamson Count' Sun (Georgetown, Texas), October 4, 1962, p. 1; Jane Rampy.

 

3-Current owners have original architectural plans for the home, showing they were prepared by the firm of C. H. Page, Austin; Tax rolls, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown; Deed records, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown. NOTE: Tax records indicate the Burcham House was built between 1908 and 1909. The land transactions show Dr. Burcham purchased the property from G. T. Tisdale of McMullen County on September 3, 1908. Even if work had commenced immediately, it is doubtful the house could have been completed before the first part of 1909.

 

4-William E. Skaggs, ed., Central Texas Business and Professional Directory (Austin: Centex Publications, n. d.), p. 135; Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans, Vol. V (Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1914), pp. 2410-2411; "Gilfillan House", Texas Historical Commission marker files (Travis County), Austin.

 

5 - Rampy.


6 -Rampy.

 

7 - Rampy. Probate records, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown.

 

8 - Rampy.

 

9-WilliamsonSun, January 15, 1932, p. 1.

 

10 - 'Williamson county  Sun, October 4, 1962, p.

11 - Rampy.

 

12 - Williamson County Sun., October 4, 1962, p. J.

 

13- Page (original drawings call for unpainted, shingled gables).

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Deed records, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown, Texas.

 

" Gilfillan House". Texas Historical Commission marker files (Travis County).

 

Johnson, Frank W. A History of Texas and Texans, Vol. V. Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1914.

 

Page, C. H. Architectural drawings for "Residence of W. J. Burcham, undated (in possession of Farley Snell, current owner).

 

Probate records, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown, Texas.

 

Rampy, Jane.  Interview with Dan K. Utley (notes only), May 6, 1988.

 

Skaggs, William C., ed. Central Texas Business and Professional Directory. Austin: Centex

Publications, n. d.

 

Tax rolls, Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown, Texas.

 

Williamson County Sun (Georgetown, Texas). January 15, 1932.

 

Williamson County Sun (Georgetown, Texas). October 4, 1962.

 


 

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