Building and Grounds

The maintenance and preservation of the Burwell School Historic Site is a critical part of the mission of the Historic Hillsborough Commission. Proactive upkeep of the landmark buildings and grounds is essential to interpreting the history of the Burwell School and welcoming the community to educational and cultural events.

Today, the Burwell School Historic Site is a two-acre property, which contains the Burwell residence (ca. 1821, 1848), the original brick classroom building of Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell’s Academy for Young Ladies (ca.1837), and a rare brick Necessary House (ca. 1837).  The Burwell residence was designed and built by notable Orange County architect, Capt. John Berry.

Preservation Timeline:

1963 - The Historic Hillsborough Commission (HHC) is created by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly.

1965 - Eleven members of the HHC signed $1,000 notes to guarantee the purchase of the property at 319 North Churton Street in Hillsborough. Restoration of the Burwell residence to its ca.1848 appearance began in 1965 and received funding from a coalition of public and private supporters. 

1972 - The Burwell School Historic Site was listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of the site’s historical significance.

1976 - A community celebration marked the conclusion of the first phase of the restoration and the dedication of the Burwell School Historic Site. That same year, the members of the HHC burned the mortgage note on the front lawn and owned the property outright. 

1977 - The Carrie Waitt Spurgeon Garden, composed of heirloom plants gathered from Hillsborough gardens, was planted at the Burwell School by the Hillsborough Garden Club as a tribute to the horticultural talents of the Site’s last private occupants, the Spurgeon Family (1895-1963).

1979 - The original classroom building of the Burwell School was restored to its ca.1837 appearance with federal and state grant funds.  That same year, the Burwell School Historic Site opened to the public on a regular basis with guided tours provided by volunteer docents. 

2001 – The HHC hired a part-time professional Executive Director and two docents to oversee the maintenance of the property and the management of the historic site.

2002 - North Carolina State Highway Marker dedicated on Churton Street in recognition of the life and accomplishments of Elizabeth Hobbes Keckly. 

2006  - The HHC hired Mulberry Restoration to repaint the house and repair exterior damage using historically accurate methods and materials. 

2011  - The building and grounds committee oversaw a structural reinforcement project in the main house led by local structural engineer Johnny Cannada. The project stabilized the main house with reinforcements to the struts and foundation.

2011 - Walter McClemmons, carpenter and designer, built a rose arbor to replicate a wooden arbor depicted in an 1850s student’s drawing of the Burwell property. The arbor is constructed of shaved eastern cedar logs and supports two heirloom white musk rose plants, the same rare variety that Mrs. Burwell planted and grew on the property 180 years ago. This project was made possible thanks to a generous contribution from the Hillsborough Garden Club, and it won a preservation award from the Hillsborough Historic District Commission.

2012  - The HHC constructed a handicap accessible ramp and stone walkway to create improved access to the site. The walkway utilized stones salvaged from the foundation of the Burwell residence during a structural reinforcement conducted in 2011. 

2013  - The HHC began planning and work to restore the Burwell School House, also known as the Music Building.  The project is made possible by a challenge grant from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation.  Click here for more detail about this current project .  

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