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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Dan K. Utley and David W.
Dan K. Utley
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.
7 - Rampy. Probate records,
Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown.
8 - Rampy.
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).
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.
Interview with Dan K. Utley (notes only), May 6, 1988.
Skaggs, William C., ed.
Central Texas Business and Professional Directory.
Publications, n. d.
Tax rolls, Williamson