The President”s House is expected to undergo a $975,000 renovation project that should be completed by December, just after a new president is scheduled to move in.
“It”s a historic structure and a visible symbol of leadership at the University,” Chief Financial Officer Robert Kasdin told the University Board of Regents last Thursday.
Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bingham Farms) requested the Facilities and Operations Department compile a report on the types of renovations the house needs, and the regents approved the renovations at last week”s meeting.
Julia Truettner, University building historian, said the President”s House is important to the University community because “it is the only one of the original buildings to survive.”
The original buildings built around the Diag served as professors” houses, dormitories, main buildings and the University Hospital, and all but the president”s house were torn down “to give way for newer and more modern buildings,” she added.
The renovations will update some mechanical and electrical systems in the house such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and wiring. On the exterior, the driveway and windows will be replaced. The patio and sunroom will also be repaired.
In the past, the house has undergone several extensive changes. There have been four major additions to the house between 1864 and 1933 and additions include electricity, air conditioning and interior plumbing, Truettner said.
One of the extensive renovations of the house occurred in 1990 at the request of former President James Duderstadt”s wife, Anne.
“She was very keen on history and she did a lot to restore it to look older,” Truettner said.
The building that became the President”s House in the 1850s was chosen arbitrarily because it was the only one unoccupied, she said. The first University president to live in the house was Henry Tappan in 1852, and since then all but one president has lived in it.
In 1970, the President”s House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1840.
In addition to entertaining statesmen and the University community, the house has had other uses over the years.
During World War I, the house served as a headquarters for the Red Cross.
“They used it for rolling bandages and things like that, not as a hospital,” Truettner said.