About Westcott - Family
Burton J. Westcott was a significant automobile manufacturer before the car industry "went Detroit." His wife, Orpha, must have been equally forward-thinking, for it probably was she who encouraged the break with tradition by commissioning avant garde architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design their house in Springfield, Ohio. The biographies of the Westcotts convey an entrepreneurial spirit recently revived in the top-to-bottom restoration of their impressive home. The Westcott House is now open to the public as a house museum.
Burton J. Westcott (1868-1926) brought innovation to Springfield with the Westcott Motor Car Company in 1916. The company manufactured hand-assembled touring cars until it was sold to a syndicate in 1924. Few other automobiles rivaled the Westcott in durability and elegance.
Burton Westcott was one of Springfield's most prominent citizens. From 1916 to 1922 he served on the Springfield Town Council and in 1921 was elected its president, a position equivalent to mayor. He was also a director of the Lagonda National Bank and a member of the Springfield Country Club. A staunch Republican, he had admirers from both political parties—partly because he helped to curb corruption in the city's administrative affairs.
Born in Richmond, Indiana, Westcott was the son of John W. Westcott, founder and president of the Hoosier Drill Company, a noted manufacturer of farm implements and the Westcott Carriage Company. Burton took an interest in both businesses. Educated at DePauw and Swarthmore, he became treasurer of the Hoosier Drill Company, which in 1903 merged with several other firms to create the American Seeding Machine Company. Its executive offices were located in Springfield. Burton Westcott served as its treasurer for the next twenty-one years.
After the sudden death of Westcott's wife, his own health declined. He died at his Springfield home January 10, 1926.
Orpha Leffler Westcott
Orpha Westcott (1877-1923) was one of Springfield's most prominent and unusually progressive women. She joined her husband in a host of community activities, and she took an active role in the affairs of the community that was her home for the rest of her life. She was a member of the Springfield Country Club and Covenant Presbyterian Church. She was said to be an independent and innovative woman, interested in the modern, the beautiful, and the unusual.
Orpha Westcott instigated the commission of the Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright, then little known but considered highly controversial, to design the family residence on East High Street. After the completion of this important structure, in 1911 she took the Westcotts' children to Europe, where she continued to pursue a variety of interests that reflected her creative and independent spirit.
Her son, John, attended the first Montessori School in Italy, receiving his instruction personally from Maria Montessori. A few years later, she helped him with the pursuit of another modern innovation: short-wave radio. Ironically and fortunately, the family was to return from Europe on the maiden voyage of the White Star liner Titanic, but when a member of its party fell ill, the family decided to return at a later date, by another boat.
On April 12, 1923, following what should have been a routine sinus operation, Orpha Westcott died suddenly in Philadelphia. The tragedy stunned both her family and her friends. Funeral services were held for her in the living room of her beautiful home on East High Street. A few years later Mr. Westcott's services were held there also.