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Olive Street Historic District

Georgetown City, Williamson County, TX

S. A. Easley House, circa 1913

Photo: The S. A. Easley House, circa 1913, located at 1310 Olive Street, Georgetown, Texas United States. The house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1984 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 29, 1986. Photographed by wikipedia username: Larry D. Moore (own work), 2014 [CC BY-SA 3.0], Accessed November 2021.

The Olive Street Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Olive Street neighborhood was formed as part of the Snyder Addition in 1890. Land south and east of the Snyder Addition served as agricultural land until the early twentieth century. The Frank J. Perrin House (1702 Olive Street), the main house of a late-eighteenth century farmstead, stands as a remnant of the agricultural past of southeastern Georgetown. The Snyder Addition originally contained a total of 47 blocks. The plat extended from Walnut Street to Vine Street and included the area from Locust Street (9th Street) to Cypress Street (17th Street). A portion of the addition north of University was transferred to Southwestern University in the late 1890s when the campus moved from its original location at College and University Streets. The Snyder Addition was platted southeast of the central business district, continuing the street and block arrangement established by the residential neighborhoods between Church and College Street to the west.

Although platted in 1890, significant development of the neighborhood did not commence until the early twentieth century. The homes along Olive Street, 15th Street, and Laurel Street represent architectural styles that are representative of designs seen throughout southern Georgetown, including nine confirmed homes constructed by C.S. Belford and the Belford Lumber Company. A great majority of the houses are original structures that have been remodeled, restored, or impeccably maintained.

The Olive Street neighborhood features three distinct areas that are distinguished by architectural style, period of construction, setback and size of lot. The first section of the district fronts University Avenue and encompasses the 1200 block of Olive Street. This section is composed of three properties constructed during the same time period (ca. 1914) but differentiated by architectural style, form, and scale. Two properties front University Avenue and include a large two-story Prairie style residence (1008 E. University Avenue) and a small Craftsman-style bungalow (1102 E. University Avenue). A carriage house (1204B Olive Street) located behind 1008 E. University is also included as a contributing resource within the Olive Street Historic District.

The most cohesive portion of the district is located along Olive Street from 13th Street and 15th Street. This section is characterized by tree-lined boulevards framed by concrete sidewalks. Most houses are set back on similar-sized lots. Two-story homes are common at the northern end of this section with smaller one-story bungalows seen at the southern end. The third section, located south of 15th Street, features many mid-century residences on smaller lots. This section, not originally included as the Snyder Addition was platted as Outlot B and includes the ca. 1880 Perrin residence.

The earliest buildings within the neighborhood are the ca. 1880 Frank J. Perrin House (1702 Olive Street), the ca. 1885 Hawnen-Graves House (1409 Olive Street), and the ca. 1895 Chessher-Morgan House (1202 East 15th Street). They represent three different styles and periods of construction. The Perrin House, as noted earlier, is a rare surviving element of the agricultural landscape that defined this region in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. Constructed as the main house on a five-acre farmstead in the 1880s, the Perrin House is a vernacular interpretation of an I-house. The I-house form is uncommon in Georgetown, and this residence serves as an excellent example of its type. The two-story house features wood siding at all facades, original four-over-four windows, and exterior end-wall brick chimneys at both the west and east facades. The second-floor enclosed sleeping porch was added to the house by the Perrin family, who lived in the home from 1904 until 1953.

The Queen Anne home was a popular architectural style in the Georgetown area and throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. This national style was commonly promoted by builders as a kit-of-parts ordered by catalog, transported by railroad, and easily assembled by local tradesmen. It became a signature American-made style during this period, made possible by technological advances of the Industrial Age. Examples of both the more vernacular Folk Victorian style as well as the highly ornamented Queen Anne style are found throughout the city of Georgetown. The Hawnen-Graves House located on the northeast corner of Olive Street and 15th Street is a good representative example of the Folk Victorian style in Georgetown. Constructed by Georgetown builder George Irvine and the Irvine Lumber Company in the 1880s, the L-plan house features a spindle frieze, turned porch columns and a turned post balustrade along the front porch. Original two-over-two windows are found along most facades.

A highly ornamented Queen Anne home, located along 15th Street just east of Olive Street, is also included within the boundaries of the Olive Street Historic District. Known as the Chessher-Morgan House, the ca. 1895 one-story residence features imbricated shingled siding along the facade of the front bay, which is articulated using a circular turret form with a conical roof. Raindrop detailing is noted along the fascia at all eaves. The primary porch features turned wood columns and balustrades. Circular bays featuring the same imbricated shingles are found at both the east and west end walls. Although originally located on land that is now part of the Southwestern University campus, the house was relocated to its present site in 1902. The Chessher-Morgan House is similar in design and form to the residence at 907 Pine Street in Georgetown and the two buildings serve as the only two examples of a L-plan house form with rounded front bay in the city, a once common house form.

The most cohesive portion of the neighborhood includes the section from East 13th Street to East 15th Street and represents a large collection of residences constructed by Charles S. Belford, a noteworthy Georgetown builder of the early twentieth century.

Most homes in the Olive Street Historic District are constructed in the Craftsman style with some early homes featuring transitional elements borrowed from the Colonial Revival architectural style. Belford adopted the massing and form of the Craftsman style while early examples retain strong Colonial Revival and Classical detailing at porches and in the articulation of some fenestration. A signature design element seen on three of the nine Belford homes in the neighborhood is the second-story hipped-roof dormer featuring an inset porch (enclosed on some of residences). Excellent representative examples within the neighborhood of four distinct building periods and architectural styles include the ca. 1905 Colonial Revival style Wilcox-Graves House (1403 Olive Street), the ca. 1909 Shingle style Amos-Godbey House (1408 Olive Street), the 1913 Prairie style D.K. Wilcox-Chapman House (1307 Olive Street) and the 1915 Wilcox House (1505 Olive Street).

A strict rebuttal of the design excesses of the Queen Anne style, the Colonial Revival style looked back to the architectural principles of colonial America. The style spanned a significant period of popularity from 1880 until 1955, and evolved from transitional examples that applied Classical details to Queen Anne forms to mid-twentieth century residences with simplified forms and minimal ornamentation. While not attributed to Charles S. Belford, the 1905 Colonial Revival style house located at 1403 Olive Street features an inset front porch with Doric pilasters and a slat wood balustrade. Brick steps lead to the primary entrance, a single door with a large oval light, flanked by sidelights each topped by a transom window. The prominent hipped dormer containing the enclosed inset porch at the front facade sets this Colonial Revival house apart from its contemporaries in other regions of the southern United States.

The Shingle style residence, built from 1880 and 1900, was an architectural style limited to coastal architecture along in resort towns of the northeast. Rare examples of the style were constructed throughout the country, promoted by contemporary architectural magazines. The ca. 1909 Shingle style Amos-Godbey House located at 1408 Olive Street is a unique version of this architectural style in central Texas. Common elements of the Shingle style include a gambrel roof with large, overhanging eaves, a shed roof dormer, and exterior stone chimneys with corbelled caps on each gable end. Inverted tapered box columns on stone bases define the three-bay front porch. Fenestration includes paired twelve-over-one window units and a single 24-light wood paneled door with sidelights and transom. The dominant massing, emphasis on strong horizontal lines and exaggerated design elements reinforce the principles of the Shingle style and make this residence a noteworthy example of the architectural style. The Prairie style of architecture was popular in the United States from 1900 until 1920. The style originated from residential designs for the suburbs of Chicago architects by such as Frank Lloyd Wright. More vernacular forms of the style were illustrated in pattern books and constructed throughout the country. The 1913 Prairie style D.K. Wilcox-Chapman House located at 1307 Olive Street is a vernacular interpretation of the style. The house is viewed as a transitional style since it incorporates elements of the Colonial Revival style in the articulation of Doric columns along the wraparound porch. The shallow hipped roof of the porch, deep overhanging eaves, and a large cornice promote an emphasis on horizontal lines, a primary characteristic of the Prairie style. The house features one-over-one wood windows and a single door with sidelights and transom. The hipped roof is punctuated with two internal brick chimneys. The house stands as a good representative example of a transitional Prairie-style residence in Georgetown.

Contemporaneous with the Prairie architectural style, the Craftsman style originated in California in the 1900s and vernacular interpretations of the style appeared throughout the United States, made popular by pattern books and magazines. A common choice for more modest homes during the early twentieth century, the Craftsman bungalow is well represented throughout the city of Georgetown. Many of the most significant examples of the style were constructed by Charles S. Belford and the Belford Lumber Company. Some early examples incorporated Colonial Revival and Classical design elements. The 1915 Craftsman style Wilcox House, located at 1505 Olive Street, is a good representative example of the more modest Craftsman bungalow. The house features a hipped roof front porch with tapered box columns set on a framed wood base, wood slat balustrades, and concrete steps and porch floor. Typical of the Craftsman style, windows are five-over-one and topped by a simple wood cornice. Exposed wood roof rafters articulate the roof overhang at each eave. A shallow cut-away-bay, more typical of the Queen Anne style, is noted at the front facade. The house serves as a good representative example of the trend towards more modest homes that began in the mid-1910s in the Olive Street neighborhood.

The southern section of the neighborhood, representing the most recent era of development within the neighborhood provide many examples of modest post World War II and mid-century residences. Featuring examples of both Minimal Traditional and Ranch style homes, this section of the Olive Street Historic District illustrates the continued development of the neighborhood as agricultural land was converted to residential lots in the early to mid-twentieth century. The Minimal Traditional style was a popular national style after World War II when the domestic building resumed. The simplified house form offered minimal detailing, and was typified by a dominant front gable and brick or stone chimneys. The Minimal Traditional house soon evolved into the Ranch style, which emphasized the horizontal through low-slope roofs with wide overhangs and rambling front facades. The H.S. Sharp House at 1601 Olive Street, constructed ca. 1945, is a good example of an early Ranch-style home within the neighborhood and illustrates the evolution of Minimal Traditional to Ranch style. The elongated front facade with a low-slope roof and wide overhangs illustrates the shift towards the horizontal emphasis of the Ranch style while the side-gabled front ell with inset porch, scalloped vertical wood trim at gable ends and a combination of brick veneer and asbestos shingle siding speak to the earlier design language of the Minimal Traditional style.

Today's streets and roadways serving Olive Street and the immediate vicinity are easily recognizable on historic maps as far back as the late-1800s. Until the early twentieth century, the area surrounding the neighborhood was largely agricultural land. The original names of the streets on the east-west axis were changed from names of trees species—such as Palmetto, Magnolia, Hackberry, and Poplar—to numbered streets names—such as 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th respectively, as first portrayed on the 1916 Sanborn map.

A significant addition to the Olive Street area was the rerouting of the rail line through the neighborhood. As early as 1878, the original Georgetown Railroad Company operated the railway between downtown Georgetown and Round Rock, Texas, which later merged with the International and Great Northern Railroad Company. Between 1900 and 1905, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad Company began construction of a spur from the main International Great Northern Railroad that circled the southern limits of Georgetown and turned north along Holly Street, eventually turning north-northeast to Granger. This railway is illustrated in different states of completion in a series of Sanborn maps from 1905 until 1925. A 1928 map of Georgetown shows the railroad complete. On its eastern course through Georgetown, the railroad travels along Holly Street, two blocks west of the Olive Street Historic District.

The Snyder Addition, which includes the Olive Street neighborhood, was platted in 1890. However, the earliest structure within the Olive Street Historic District is a ca.1880 farmhouse at 1702 Olive Street that served as the main house for a larger farm located within the southern section of the present-day Olive Street. The farmhouse was incorporated as part of the neighborhood when Olive Street was extended along the eastern boundary of the outlot. The original 5-acre lot including 1702 Olive Street was subdivided in 1923 into 19 individual lots, and Olive Street extended to its current configuration.

Although the Snyder Addition was platted in 1890, the first residences were not constructed until the early twentieth century. The northern lots were the first to be developed. Contributing resources extending from 1905 (1403 Olive Street) to 1927 (1402 Olive Street). While two residences along Olive Street south of E. 15th Street date from 1915 (1505 Olive Street) and 1926 (1502 Olive Street), most residences in this portion of the Olive Street Historic District were constructed from 1935 until 1955 and reflect national architectural trends popular during this time period. Therefore, the period of significance for the Olive Street Historic District spans from 1880 until 1960, a period that encompasses the earliest residences within the historic district boundaries until the date of construction of the last significant grouping of resources.

‡ Georgetown Heritage Society and Elizabeth Valenzuela, Architectural Historian, Georgetown Heritage Society and Valenzuela Preservation Studio, Olive Street Historic District, Williamson County, TX, nomination document, 2013, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
15th Street East • Laurel Street • Olive Street • University Avenue East