"It was just 100 years ago that American ingenuity
developed oil heat as a practical reality. On August 11, 1885, the Patent
Office granted to David H. Burrell of Little Falls, New York, a patent for
the first technically sound oil burner -- a furnace that could burn liquid
and gaseous fuels."
Presidential Proclamation, "Oil Heat Centennial Year"
October 9, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
David H. Burrell (1841-1919) made his
fortune as an inventor. His father, Harry Burrell (1797-1879),
founded a cheese business and at the age of 14 David went to work for the
family business. He became a salesman in New York City at age 17. While
traveling abroad to study manufacturing methods he became convinced that
the future development of the dairy products industry lay in improved
The D. H. Burrell Co. was founded in
1885 to design, develop, manufacture and distribute dairy apparatus and
supplies. Perhaps its best known product was the Burrell Milking
In 1985, in an official proclamation, President Ronald
Reagan declared the year "Oil Heat Centennial Year" because it marked 100
years since the U.S. Patent Office granted "...to David H. Burrell of
Little Falls, New York, a patent for the first technically sound oil
burner -- a furnace that could burn liquid and gaseous fuels."
Burrell's invention made possible the entire oil heat industry as we know
style, was designed by Archimedes Russell and
completed in 1889. It is built
of limestone quarried from a hillside site 500
feet above the Mohawk River. No mortar was used in its construction.
The home has 26 rooms and 18,000 square feet of living
area. The design included a small
self-contained hydroelectric plant, an elevator, an indoor swimming pool
and a bowling alley. As you can see below, the home has a commanding
view of Little Falls to the south and the countryside beyond.
The building stayed in the family for
several years after Burrell's death. In recent years the mansion
operated as the Overlook Mansion Inn.
In May of 2002 everything in the
mansion was put up for auction. The first 200 items were
simultaneously auctioned on site and over the internet through E-Bay.
Items liquidated included everything of value in the home: all
furniture, kitchen equipment, even the light fixtures (some of which
brought more than $2,000 each). What was left of the mansion was
donated to charity.