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Southwestern Students Preserve a Piece of Georgetown History

  • News Image
    Carlos Barron (center) did the artwork for the sign and Derek Sample (to his right) was among the Paideia students who did the research for the project. At left is Paideia Director David Gaines and to his right is Paideia Professor Michael Kamen. At right is Kimberley Garrett, parks and recreation director for the City of Georgetown.
  • News Image
    Close-up of the sign that students in Michael Kamen's Paideia group created for Rivery Park.

Paideia group documents house that used to be located in Rivery Park

A piece of Georgetown’s history has been preserved, thanks to the efforts of a group of students in Southwestern’s Paideia® program. 

Three years ago, students in Michael Kamen’s Paideia group were looking for a community service project they could do. They met with Kimberly Garrett, parks and recreation director for the City of Georgetown, to get some ideas. 

Garrett suggested they research the history of a house that used to be located in a popular city park on the San Gabriel River hike and bike trail known as Rivery Park. “I had always wanted to document this property,” Garrett said.

The house was built in the mid-1800s by the Shell family, for whom Shell Road in Georgetown is named. The family used the surrounding land as a ranch and also had an orchard and nursery on the property. The family sold their 263-acre property in 1972 and it traded hands several times before Georgetown acquired it for parkland in the mid-1990s. Today, all that remains of the house is part of the foundation and steps, as well as a cistern. 

Students visited the property and got excited about the project. They went to the Georgetown Library and the Williamson County Museum to get information on the house and also talked to several descendents of the Shell family.

The students used $1,500 from a 3M grant Southwestern has to do projects related to the San Gabriel River Trail to develop a sign that gives the history of the house. Carlos Barron, an art major who just completed his junior year, was hired to create a drawing of the house.

“Carlos did an amazing job, especially given the photo he had to work with,” said Kamen, who is an associate professor of education at Southwestern. “It was like reconstructing a suspect in a crime scene.”

Garrett said she is pleased with the results of the project. “This park is a popular gathering place,” she said. “A lot of people will see this and read it. Most people don’t have any idea there was a house here.”

Southwestern’s Paideia® Program, which was launched in 2002, requires students not only to make connections between what they are learning and the world around them, but also to act upon their learning. In addition to their overall academic curricula, program participants fulfill requirements in civic engagement, intercultural and diversity experiences, and undergraduate research and creative works. Program participants have frequent small group-seminars with one of the University’s 29 Paideia® Professors and stay with the same cohort of 10 students, all from different academic majors, for six semesters.