Oral History: Beverley Larkam
Beverly Larkam is the owner of the historic Caswell house at 207 East 9th Street in Georgetown. This is a summary of her interview by Dan Doss in May, 2022. Written histories of the Caswell House by Beverley Larkam, Parts I, II and III can be found among the Commission files located at the Williamson Museum.
I had a clinical social work and family therapy practice in Austin and was told that Georgetown needed a top-notch marriage and family therapist.
I talked to local clergy and let them know that I needed a house. One Saturday morning, Myrtle Farris, an 80-year old realtor drove me around looking at homes in Georgetown. She finally drove me past a very old, dilapidated, lake house. The owner had just died and the family was considering selling it. I bought it in 1985.
I hired John Folks, an historical architect and told him what I wanted. I next invited C. Coatsworth Pinkney, a Harvard graduate in landscaping design who knew a great deal about old houses. We climbed into the attic, which indicated that the Caswell house had been one of the first L-shaped homes in Georgetown with an add-on kitchen. The house was a one-story cottage, 1900 square feet including the porches.
I opened the house in 1989 for the Handcraft Unlimited volunteers for a celebration and again in 1997 for the Christmas heritage Society celebration of old Georgetown homes.
I worked from the Caswell house for 32 years until 2017. One startling experience was hearing heavy steps of a man in a dark raincoat walking through the house. I froze, but realized that I wa being visited by Mr. Caswell’s ghost.
Mr. Caswell died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 45. There were family difficulties. His 17-year old son, Timothy Julious Caswell, married Cora from Liberty Hill in 1898. They purchased a house on Locust Street, which became East 9th Street and were heavily in debt.
Caswell initially painted buggies in back of his 9th Street property and would put up to 15 coats of varnish on these classy buggies. He also established the first Ford agency in Georgetown and the first Gulf station. He sold the property on East 8th Street to the government for the U.S. Post Office.
Friends in Austin would tell me that Georgetown folks would leave and return in the middle of the night to visit a psychiatrist in Dallas or Houston. It wasn’t a very welcoming kind of town. When I went before the zoning and planning board to have the property legally zoned for business, I don’t think I’ve ever been treated so negatively. At the time, Georgetown was a very closed community and I was turned down.
I was devastated, but restored the cottage and lived there part time, driving back and forth to Austin. I began entertaining folks on Sunday afternoons with Victorian high teas as well as other smaller opportunities to welcome people, but never clients.
I decorated my office with quilts, one from my grandmother made with miscellaneous fabrics, one from a women’s commission conference in Kentucky and one from the Great Wall in China, lined with paper.
I was born in Nelson, British Columbia, finished graduate school at the University of British Columbia, married a month later and came to Austin a month after that. Georgetown was about the same size as Nelson, so that was probably the basis for wanting to make a lasting contribution here.
It’s been a real privilege to be a steward of the Caswell house. I have learned a lot about life at that time and have a real commitment to this community and the people who live here.