Splitrock, also known as the Burns-Klein House, at 2815 Wooldridge Dr, is one of the oldest homes in the Bryker Woods and Pemberton Heights neighborhoods. The house is named for the nearby topographic feature on Shoal Creek, a giant boulder split in two described as “split rock” located approximately 450’ south east of house along the bluff. Built outside of the city limits in 1893 by pioneer stone mason Thomas F. Burns, the house was one of the first houses on the west bank of Shoal Creek and was a rural retreat until the development of the local neighborhoods. Born in Scotland in 1853, Burns emigrated to the United States in 1870, became a stone mason in Austin and worked on the construction of the Texas Capitol in the late 1880s. Thomas Burns later became a successful Austin businessman, operating the Capitol City Marble Company on West Sixth Street.
Built on 3.75 acres next to a massive live oak tree (designated 10th largest tree in Austin in a 1976 bicentennial survey) Spiltrock originally faced Shoal Creek. The house was re-oriented in the 1920s’ when Pemberton Heights was developed and then “Splitrock Avenue” was dedicated as Wooldridge Drive. See color image below. The house, quite modest and simple in design for the late Victorian era, is rectangular with a steep hipped roof. Resting upon cedar posts and of “balloon” construction type, the farm house was built following a traditional center hall design, with three rooms on each side of the hall. Downstairs ceilings are 12’ in height and were designed to help keep the house cool in the summer. Wood stoves throughout the house were used for heat during the winter months. Two small bedrooms upstairs are located in the dormers under the tall and steeply pitched roof. In the 1920s as the neighborhood infrastructure developed, electricity and indoor plumbing were added to the house and the existing porches were transformed – the back porch becoming the front porch.
Splitrock was designated an Austin Historic Landmark in 2004. The house was renovated* in 2012 and included reconstruction the front porch (former back porch) with a design closer to the period when the house was reoriented to face Wooldridge Drive. Energy efficiency enhancements were also part of the home’s renovation, including extensive use of LED lighting. Also included were the installations of a rain water collection system and a solar photovoltaic array. Current renovation efforts are focused on the back part of the property with the removal of invasive plants and the re-establishment of native grasses. In 2015 Splitrock received a Preservation Merit Award for Sustainability. The Texas Historical Commission has designated Splitrock (Burns-Klein House) as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, its highest designation for properties judged to be historically and architecturally significant. Edward, Anne, Christopher Tasch and Firn currently reside in Splitrock.
* The restoration of Splitrock is dedicated in loving memory of Al F. Tasch and Christopher Crawford. Without their hard work, sacrifice, and generosity all of this would not have been possible.