Oxford College President's House gets a new lease on life

By Hal Jacobs | Emory Magazine | May 28, 2014

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The Bowens can host ten people around the mahogany table in the same dining room where President Few and other early leaders met to plan the future of the little college. Emory Photo/Video.

It was 2005. Emory's oldest building, the Old President's House at Oxford College, had seen better days.

Now its fate was up for grabs. Built in the late 1830s, just a few blocks north of campus, the residence housed four Emory presidents before the campus moved to Atlanta in 1919.

Following the move, the Old President's House kept its name, but college deans and their families began taking up residence in its modest, yet gracious, space.

Given its age—160 years and counting—it's not surprising that the house had seen its share of add-ons, renovations, and patchwork. Emory's first president, Ignatius Few, built the classic “two over two” house (visualize a tall-standing shoe box), with two rooms and a wide foyer downstairs, two rooms upstairs, and the kitchen as a separate building because of the fire risk.

It soon morphed into a plain-style Greek Revival house with two exterior guest rooms (courtesy of President Augustus Longstreet) for visiting circuit-riding ministers and student boarders. The Victorian era left its mark with some dainty gingerbread scrollwork on the front porch. Eventually the house would expand to include five rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs. In one of the rooms that had once sheltered clergy from the elements, students now crowded around a pool table.

Dana Greene 71PhD, a historian and the most recent dean to live in the house, says she “cherished living there because of its history.” But she admitted the house needed help. One of its late-modern additions involved an upstairs master bathroom that was located four steps down from the bedroom. She recalls that you had to be careful navigating those steps first thing in the morning.

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