Renovating a President's Residence

Hart House: home to future leaders

 Hart House: home to future leaders. Photo: Jim Wallace


Duke trustees have decided to renovate the house of former university president Deryl Hart '64 at the corner of Cameron Boulevard and Duke University Road as a residence for Duke presidents. This is the first time since the Sixties that the university president's residence will be located on campus.

"Its campus location and setting are ideal, and when renovated it will be a great facility," says trustee chair Peter Nicholas '64. "We believe it will serve future Duke presidents and Duke well."

Richard H. Brodhead, who will become Duke's ninth president on July 1, and his wife, Cindy, will move into the house after renovations have been completed, probably around year's end, says Duke's executive vice president, Tallman Trask III.

President Nannerl O. Keohane and her husband, Robert, have lived in the Knight House, a university-owned property in Duke Forest about one mile from campus. Knight House, named for former President Douglas Knight, has served as the home for three Duke presidents: Knight, who was president when it was built in the 1960s; Terry Sanford; and Keohane. It also served as a university guesthouse and conference facility during the presidency of Keohane's predecessor, H. Keith H. Brodie, when he decided to live in his own home when he was elected in 1985. Trask says the Knight House will likely be used as it was during the Brodie presidency.

The Hart House is a three-story building built of brick and timber. Members of the Hart family lived there from 1933, when the house was built, until the death of Mary Hart, President Hart's widow, in July 2000. Hart was Duke's president from 1960 to 1963. Duke's board of trustees had promised him a house on campus when he was recruited from Johns Hopkins University to be head of surgery, giving him a fifty-year lease for $1. After his death in 1980, the trustees said that Mary Hart could stay in the house as long as she wished.

The death of Mrs. Hart led the trustees to consider the future of the house, says Nicholas. "Everyone recognized that a decision to keep it, rather than replace it, would require the structure to be substantially modernized, and there was a strong sentiment favoring a president's home on campus and keeping the house as a residence rather than converting it to other administrative uses. We think it is important for the president's home to be easily accessible to the campus community."

The renovated president's house, which borders Duke's football field at the intersection of two main campus roads, will provide both official function space and private living quarters. Trask says the renovation will be costly because the house lacks air-conditioning and still has its original wiring, plumbing, and mechanical systems. The public spaces must be made accessible for visitors with disabilities, and planners also must consider issues ranging from vehicle access to landscaping and security.

Trask will oversee the project with Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services, and John Pearce, university architect, with help from outside architects, designers, and engineers. The project will be funded by donations from several university trustees.

Before the construction of the Knight House, Duke presidents lived in several locations. The university's first president, William Preston Few, lived in the house on Campus Drive now occupied by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. His successor, Robert Lee Flowers, remained in his personal home at the end of Chapel Drive, a building that now houses the Office of Alumni Affairs. Next was Arthur Edens, who took residence in the same "president's house" used by Few. Edens was followed by Hart.

Brodhead says that he looks forward to making the house a true home for himself and his family, as well as a gathering place for university events. "I appreciate the trustees' decision to renovate the Hart House, which will provide a wonderful venue for campus events and home for Cindy and me and for future Duke presidents," Brodhead says. "It's a particularly lovely building, and it means a lot to me that students and faculty will be able to walk to our home from campus."

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