W.C. Vaden House Historical Marker, Georgetown, Texas

Marker Text

Prominent local builder Charles S. Belford completed this home for Wesley Carrol Vaden and his wife Kate (Lockett) in 1908. Eclectic in design, the residence features Queen Anne styling with classical influences favored by Vaden, a Virginia native and a professor of Latin and Greek at Southwestern University for over 40 years. The home's notable elements include inset balconies, an oval window, elliptical arched openings, and shingled gable detailing.

Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1992

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GPS Coordinates
Latitude 30.633400- Longitude -97.670162

Address: 711 E University

A professor of Latin and his wife (the former Kate Lockett) were the first owners of this early 20th century "eclectic" home. Noteworthy for its asymmetrical massing and elliptical arch opening on the front gable, the structure successfully combines a variety of geometric shapes (ovals, rectangles, ellipses, and arches). Also distinctive is the choice of a simple, single door entrance. Note the finials and balustrade on the upper gallery with its connecting balconies.

PROFESSOR W. C. VADEN HOUSE Narrative by Dan K. Utley, Historian Austin, Texas

April 1990

One of the most significant factors in the cultural development of Georgetown has been the influence of Southwestern University. Founded in the 1870s and considered one of the premier small liberal arts colleges in the nation, it has played a dramatic role in all facets of Georgetown's history. Among its alumni are many prominent leaders of the community and the state. The faculty has consistently included some of the country's best scholars and educators, and the campus has even contributed to the town, establishing an early growth corridor and an eastward expansion of residential areas.

Among those who came to Georgetown as a result of the university was Wesley Carroll Vaden (1866-1937). A native of Danville, Virginia, he was the son of the Rev. W. C. Vaden, a Methodist preacher. The younger Vaden was educated at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, where he received his BA and MA in classical studies. After completing his scholastic work in 1890, he taught at his alma mater and then at Chesapeake Academy. In 1893 he moved to Georgetown, Texas, to become a professor of Latin and Greek at Southwestern University [1]

Four years after moving to Texas, Vaden wed Kate Lockett (1874-1955), the daughter of prominent Georgetown businessman M. B. Lockett. Kate, a native of Burnet County, had moved to Williamson County with her parents in 1888. She attended Southwestern University, where she probably first met her future husband. [2]

W. C. Vaden continued his education after his marriage, enrolling in summer post-graduate studies at Cornell in 1901 and Yale in 1905.

He never completed his doctorate, although many people referred to him as Dr. Vaden, but remained an active student of the classics throughout his life. As noted in his obituary, written by his close friend and colleague, John Cowper Granbery: "He could say with Solon, the Greek lawgiver, 'I am growing old, ever learning many things. [3] Granbery's comments, which eloquently and reverently intertwine Vaden's life and accomplishments within broader contexts of philosophy and scholarship, provide an important insight:

It is difficult for us to understand how he dwelt not in the moment but in the ages. A few of us are able to take a peep into the world of classic literature, but he dwelt there, feeling perfectly at home. [4]

The most visible current reminder of Vaden's passion for the agelessness of the classical period was his home at 711 East University, on the main road from the downtown area to the Southwestern campus. Vaden's interest in Greek and Roman architecture strongly influenced the overall design, which, because of its eclecticism, makes it unique in Georgetown. The house was constructed by Charles S. Belford (1857-1929), one of the city's most noted builders, and is one of the earliest remaining examples of his work.

Belford Lumber Company ledger books indicate the Vaden House was built in 1907-1908.

The charges brought forward from 1907 are not shown, but the work completed in 1908 totaled almost $900.00. An analysis of tax records has led some to speculate that the house was constructed several years earlier. The rolls show a substantial property evaluation increase, from $360 to $2000 between 1902 and 1903, with an increase to $2500 in 1907. Belford's ledgers from the early 1900s, however, do not show any work on Vaden's property. [5]

A probable explanation for the tax increase is that a structure, or part of the present house, was constructed around 1902-03. Several factors could have influenced Vaden to build his home over a period of several years. First, it should be remembered that he enrolled in post-graduate work in 1901 and 1905 and was presumably out of the state several months in those years. Second, in the early 1900s, there was widespread speculation among Texas Methodists regarding the fate of Southwestern University. The debate centered around plans to build a major university and theological center, which would have resulted in the closing of several smaller schools. Although Georgetown prevailed in its efforts to retain Southwestern University, despite the establishment of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the future of the local college was very much in doubt in the first decade of the twentieth century. Regardless of the conjecture, the Belford books provide the best evidence of the construction work on the Vaden property. [6]

The W. C. Vaden House is an interesting blend of various styles and elemental influences. It is a one-and-a-half-story frame dwelling with an asymmetrical plan and an L-shaped porch typical of Victorian houses. Interesting features include Ionic columns, imbricated shingles in the gable ends, wooden slat balustrades, scrolled porch rooflines, and a variety of window configurations. Most notable, however, are the two inset porches, or belvederes, on the second floor of the primary facade. The one on the southwest corner of the house has an elliptical arch opening in the gable, with access provided by a small curved-gabled extension on the east. The elliptical motif is repeated in a second-floor porch on the west elevation.

The southeastern belvedere is more rectilinear in design, although it includes a fixed oval window with a floral designed base as a prominent feature.

The inset porch is part of a gabled dormer that is set off by a balustrade above the first-floor porch. The square lines of the dormer are repeated in the east side porch, which also includes Ionic columns.

Professor Vaden was a quiet man with genteel tastes. He was active in the Methodist Church and, although he enjoyed being a resident of Georgetown, he chose to center most of his activities around his home and his university. As John Cowper Granbery noted: "His special interests were aesthetic." Granbery recalled how Vaden especially enjoyed staying at home, listening to his Victrola, and later to his radio. Thereby his radio, his shoulders covered by a shawl to protect him from the cool air, Mrs. Vaden and Professor Granberry found him gravely ill one day in March 1937. They rushed him to a doctor, although he protested vehemently that it would cause him to miss a class; he had missed only once earlier in his forty-four years with the university. Vaden's health declined rapidly, and he never returned to his beloved school. He died on March 30, 1937. [7]

W. C. Vaden was survived by his wife and by a brother and three sisters. He had no children. He was buried in the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Georgetown, in the Lockett family plot. Among his many mourners were current and former students who greatly respected his devotion to the school and his sincere interest in the subjects he taught: Latin, Greek, and French. Several years earlier, the student body had dedicated their yearbook to him:

To one who has contributed much to the name Southwestern, a charming personality, a patron of the arts, a scholar and a gentleman. . . [8]

In its early years, the Initial History Club developed an interest in community involvement that added a dimension of service to the previous goals of the organization.

The 1917 program provided the following review of their first civic contributions:
Always the main purpose of the club was purely a literary one, but they constantly tried to help their community, both financially and otherwise. Striking examples of this are their contributions to the upkeep of the University campus, their annual one to the interscholastic meet, and a generous donation to the Confederate monument. It was through the efforts of this club also that the Sunday delivery of ice was abolished. [9]

In 1895, two years after the formation of the F.A.D., five young Georgetown women met to organize a new literary club. According to a later account, the town's second club was a result of the "wave for club work and organization [that] passed over these our United States following the impetus given by the club women at the World's Fair in 1893." Organizers of the second club were "Mesdames Hyer, Makemson, Steele, H. Harrell, and M. Harrel," who invited their friends to a formal organizational meeting on October 16. At that time, they formed the Review Club, which soon embarked on an intensive seven-year study of Shakespeare and English history. Later on, the club studied "Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, George Eliot, and Sir Walter Scott." [10] The 1917 program further recorded:

Last eight years, the club was very much interested in the modern socialistic writers of Europe. Ibsen, Tolstoi, Maeterlinck, Hauptman, Turgenev, Dostoievsky, and Shaw are striking examples. As far as possible, they applied the teachings of these modern writers to similar conditions in the United States. [11]

The students memorialized him in the 1937 yearbook with the following phrase:

Others shall,
Take patience, courage, to their heart and hand From thy hand and thy heart and thy brave cheer, And God's grace fructify through thee to all. [9]

Professor Granbery offered this summation of Vaden's existence:

His faith, life, and character were transparent. He was without guile. Boasting, pretense, jealousy, hatred, littleness was foreign to his nature. I never knew him to do a small thing or speak a mean word. Simplicity, modesty, generosity is the traits of which one thinks.[10]

Kate Lockett Vaden continued to live in residence following her husband's death. Over the years, she rented out rooms to faculty and staff members of Southwestern. Mrs. Margaret Beech, who still lives in Georgetown, is among those who roomed in the Vaden House. Mrs. Vaden remained active in the First Methodist Church, where she was a member of the choir and the Missionary Society. She died in 1955 and, through her will, conveyed the Vaden House to her niece, Frances Love. [11]

In July 1956, Miss Love said the home to Owen C. and Thelma Opal Martin. They lived there until 1966, when they sold to Gus and Bess Steepen. Edel P. and Paulette P. Ruisecos became owners in 1980, and they sold three years later to the current owners, Samuel A. and Linda A. Hamilton. [12]

In the warranty deed from the Ruisecos to the Hamiltons, the grantors provided an exhibit (see attached) which gives a detailed account of the house during their ownership.

The Ruisecos noted their renovations, which included the removal of a brick chimney (two still exit the roof), the addition of a bookcase in the library, the use of sheetrock, and the alteration of some light fixtures. More importantly, they added the following phrase, which would have surely pleased Professor Vaden:

Though only three years have passed, it is with great regret that they (the Ruisecos) now pass on the baton to others who have shown that they appreciate the efforts thus far expended. It is a tribute to Belford that he constructed a building that elicits so much feeling within its occupants. It is not merely a house, it is a home. [13]

The Hamiltons have worked hard to continue the legacy. Although they constructed an addition to the rear of the house, they have preserved the overall integrity and eclectic character of the Vaden House. Prominently sited on the avenue that leads to Southwestern University, it is an integral part of the streetscape. An Official Texas Historical Marker will interpret the structure's "strange" architectural elements, reminding visitors of a quiet, unassuming man who made lasting contributions to the lives of countless university students and who dwelt in the culture of the classical age.

Researched and written by Dan K. Utley, Historian Austin, Texas

April 1990

Short narrative – author unknown

Grantor, in attempting to provide some history, was advised that the house was originally designed and constructed by Mr. Belford, using materials from the Belford Lumber Company of Georgetown, Texas, in the first decade of 1900. Grantor has not altered the building structurally except for adding the railing on the upper story porch on the east side of the building and for adding the skirting around the perimeter. A third chimney, removed approximately eight years earlier by a previous owner, was located on the south side, in the kitchen, and the brick remains should Grantee desire to rebuild the same with the original materials. Interior structural changes were not done, deferring to the sound construction practices of the old days.

However, a bookcase was constructed in the Library, and such was made of the finest materials by a craftsman. The Library and dining room light fixtures were removed and placed in the main entrance hall. The living room light fixture was the original. The dining room light fixture was the Christmas, 1981, present and remained the favorite fixture in the house. It, being a dual gas and electric light fixture, was of the approximate time period and added to the overall beauty of the dining room---the best room in the house. The fireplace mantle in the dining room was stolen about six years ago, along with the stained glass window which graced the first-floor landing. The replacement mantle is not believed to be the type originally used but was added because of the columns, which neither imposes on nor detracts from, the beauty of this room. The double sliding doors dividing the living and dining rooms were a constant reminder of the beauty and craftsmanship of the original builder.

Grantor, an attorney practicing in Austin, Texas, with the spouse as a legal secretary, lived in the house from June, 1979, to date hereof, with Edgar Price, father of Paulette, and their children John E. Ruiseco and Lana E. Ruiseco, age 16 and 12 respectively.

Edgar, who suffered a stroke about. nine years ago, he enjoyed sitting on the porch, whistling and yelling at passersby, and enjoyed his room on the first floor adjacent to the Library. John, having been enrolled in the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, for the three years, did not have the best opportunity to explore the numerous nooks and crannies of this grand ole house, lived in the south bedroom on the second floor, and painted the Marine. Corps emblem on his wall (which he lined with drawings of all the.

Marine Corps commandants). Lana, who became involved with showing dogs, taught the family's pets obedience and practiced with such until she became a very able handler---winning Best Jr. Handler in 1983, in San Antonio, and who, with her close friend and comrade Laura McKeighgan, wrote in pen, ink, crayon, pencil and every imaginable writing instrument upon her walls in the west bedroom upstairs (which may have been covered for posterity). It is Lana who, after saving money for over a year, purchased Ging's Halfpint's P.J., a golden retriever, who was one of three family pets.

The other two pets, one being a 12-year-old miniature poodle named 'Trinket' who was the queen of the house and who was Del's first legal fee in Webster, Texas; and Minka, being a mutt who produced a darling puppy named "Grizzly" (who died within six months and is buried near the southwest corner of the cyclone fence), had the frightening habit of jumping to lick the nose of those who bent down to pet her. The master bedroom was on the second floor, south side, with a door to the upstairs porch—Del, who every morning around 4:00 a.m., particularly enjoyed the view of the house at dawn. Paulette, having found the house, fell in love with it immediately but also became discouraged because we were not able to provide the necessary funds to restore the property immediately.

Even though the porch (southeast corner) was near collapse, the paint flaking, windows broken, and the upstairs southern porch was rutting (a window weight broke loose and fell' through the porch ceiling), she saw the beauty underneath.

After almost completely replacing the electrical and plumbing systems, repairing the flat roof, replacing the furnace and water heater, and adding two central air conditioning units, she supervised the workmen who covered the shiplap walls ceilings with sheetrock. Through most of the three years, the family lived in the dust, building materials and workmen hovering about. Pam (Paulette's mother) and her husband Bob made hooked rugs especially for the house, which graced its floors proudly. But it was .a hardship that was endured because the beauty was slowly 'restored to the living and dining rooms. This required many hours of sitting and cleaning brass handles, polishing fireplace covers, and just generally preserving and restoring the house to part of its former grandeur. Though only three years have passed, it is with great regret chat they now pass on the baton to others who have shown that they appreciate the efforts thus far expend….