The oldest University building on campus, the 163-year-old President’s House, finally welcomed its 13th resident Saturday as University President Mary Sue Coleman moved in upon completion of its renovations.
Due to University budget constraints, the focus of the renovations was fixing the immediate needs of the house instead of improving its appearance, said Hank Baier, associate vice president of facilities and operations.
The renovations consisted of two projects, updating the house’s electric and heating systems and refurbishing the kitchen, Baier said.
“The purpose of our project was to fix the infrastructure and preserve the house,” he said. “The regents specifically wanted us to focus on the infrastructure and not the aesthetic.”
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said administrators were concerned that updating all aspects of the house, such as replacing the carpeting or ceiling tiles, would drain too much University funding.
“The regents were sensitive about the cost and very sensitive about allocating money,” she said.
The renovations that were made required $1.3 million in University funds.
Renovators added a third dishwasher to the kitchen, installed a gas stove with two ovens to replace the electrical one, increased the number of cabinets and added new granite countertops because caterers experienced numerous difficulties serving receptions organized by past presidents, Baier said.
“The caterers would always complain because there was no place to keep hot food hot,” he said.
Laura Lemieux, owner of Laura’s Catering, said the improvements will make receptions more efficient saying that when catering for past presidents, she did not have enough space in the dishwashers or oven to feed all of the guests, who numbered as many as 100.
“Before, it was a formica-type top and the plates did not stay warm,” Lemieux said. “The granite will keep them almost at the same temperature.
In addition to the kitchen changes several infrastructure changes were made as well. A perimeter-heating system consisting of radiators running along the walls of most rooms replaced the iron radiators previously used, Baier said.
Renovators also replaced many windows throughout the house with more energy-efficient ones, and removed aluminum window frames that collected condensation, Baier said.
The windows installed in the sun room will be 55 percent more efficient than the old ones, Diane Brown said, spokeswoman of facilities and operations.
Much of the wiring throughout the house was also replaced because many of the old wires presented a fire hazard, Baier said.
“We had a collection of circuit breakers and fuses and it really needed to be fixed,” Baier said. “When you have wiring that is old and brittle – and can contact wood – you have the potential for a fire.”
Renovators removed the old fuses, replaced the service panels and rewired sections of the electrical mainframe where wires had worn down and become exposed, Baier said. The outlets in the kitchen were also updated to conform to amps required by most current appliances.
The renovations included replacing wallpaper and repainting several rooms, Baier said. “Most of what we did … was patching the plaster and repainting it,” he said. “We tried to pick colors we could maintain and keep up.”