White House Redo

The home of Marshall University’s president gets a makeover for the ages.

By Jean Hardiman

Photos by Rick Haye & Tracy Toler

The striking, white Greek Revival-style house at 1040 13th Ave. has long been a point of pride in Huntington. Not everyone in the city has been inside, but many, while taking a walk in Ritter Park, can point to it knowingly. “That’s where the Marshall president lives,” they’ll say.

home of Marshall University’s president

Others know it more personally, like Dale Osburn, interim director of the Marshall University Physical Plant, who has been working on the house for four decades. To him, it’s almost like an old friend, and over the course of the past year, he’s helped shepherd an effort to help his old friend shine like new – like it did when it was built back in 1923.

Marshall University teamed up with dozens of contractors in the area to renovate the historic 5,956-square-foot home, originally built for former Huntington Mayor Charles W. Campbell. It was sold to the university and updated in 1971 to the aesthetics of that time period. And in recent months, designers, painters, electricians, plumbers, tile craftsmen and many other professionals have been in and out of the house, working together to simultaneously update it structurally and return its look to its 1920s roots.

“It’s now a modern house with the old face to it,” Osburn says. “The house has its own personality, and to see it go from a 1970s-type look to its original look from the 1920s – there’s nothing like it. It’s been a lot of work. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over that house. We went more than the extra mile.”

home of Marshall University’s president

Some of the projects have included replacing utilities – including gas, water and the sewage system – as well as updating it electrically so that it’s wired for the latest technology. Also, the carpet was removed and floors refinished, some walls were painted and trim redone. Original wallpaper was preserved. The HVAC was reworked. New cabinetry, furniture and light fixtures were brought in to beautify the downstairs. The kitchen and bathrooms were remodeled. A hobby room on the second floor was turned into a walk-in closet.

Outside, the garage was remodeled to better accommodate modern vehicles. The landscaping was redone. Storm windows were put in. New concrete was poured. The slate on the front porch was cleaned and restored, tuckpointing was done on the brickwork – and much more.

home of Marshall University’s president

Plans began more than a year ago as the university searched for a new president following the unexpected death of President Stephen J. Kopp. The house had been in need of some serious attention, and it was time to make a decision, Osburn says.

“It was to a point where we really had to make repairs,” Osburn says. There had been problems with the roof, plumbing, heating and electrical systems, and much of the decor was dated.

There were many exceptional contractors who worked on the project, too many to name them all, he says. But he offered much thanks to the Marshall workers who took on many jobs themselves. Among them are Tony Crislip, Ronnie Hicks, Bill Black, Glen Adkins, Chris Albright, Tom Jessup, Eric Wallace, Mike Farley, Ken Holley, Danny Holland, Paul Glover, John Bailey, Dorothy Rinehart and others.

home of Marshall University’s president

MIRC Construction was a general contractor on the project.

Osburn worked closely with Susan Pierce, the deputy state historic preservation officer, as well as Marshall’s Brandi Jacobs-Jones, Ginny Painter, Interim President Gary White and Phoebe Randolph of Edward Tucker Architects to make sure the house maintained the proper standards of the National Register of Historic Places. It was not always easy to update the house while keeping the historic value, even for projects such as restructuring the garage.

home of Marshall University’s president

But there were times when returning to the 1920s was definitely fun, Randolph says.

Inspired by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau themes, “We designed the renovation to keep with the original character of the house and used 1920s influences for the design,” Randolph says. “We used geometric patterns, colors and fabrics from that time. We didn’t know who the president was going to be, so we felt the house was our client. What we did was fitting for the character of the house.

“We’re thrilled to have the chance to help out and honored to participate. It’s been wonderful to work with the Marshall staff and their facilities people.”

Salesman Paul Spaulding of Chandler’s Kitchens spent hours upon hours at the house, helping with kitchen and bath measurements for new cabinetry and appliances. It was a challenging project to keep up with, even for a man who has worked at Chandler’s for more than 50 years. It required him to go out to the house sometimes three or four times a day as the work progressed. But it turned out spectacularly, he says.

home of Marshall University’s president

“I’ve done a lot of kitchens, and this is one of the prettiest I’ve ever done,” he says, adding the master bath turned out beautifully as well. “I’m very proud of it. I went to Marshall and am a big sports fan and am proud to have had a part in it.”

Another local company, MacKenzie-Dow Fine Furniture, provided some of the furnishings, lighting and artwork downstairs. A dining room table, a buffet, chairs and sofas were among the items furnished by the company, which has a showroom inside Marshall’s Visual Arts Center downtown.

Getting to participate has been fantastic, says owner Gary Adams.

“To be in the president’s home is one of those jobs in Huntington you’d love to be part of,” he says. “We’re honored to have been asked.”

For Osburn, “It hasn’t been an ‘8-to-4 job,’” he says of renovating the house. “It’s been a big adventure, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

home of Marshall University’s president

“When you’re a 17-year-old kid coming to work at Marshall through the cooperative ed program, you kind of have a heart for the house. I remember walking in there the first time and being scared to death, thinking, ‘Don’t break anything.’ I worked on a pair of doors that wouldn’t close and Mrs. Hayes (wife of former President Robert Hayes) baked me cookies.

“This project has been a solid year of my life, but I’ve enjoyed it. I probably know that house better than I know my own. Certain things you do in your life, you never forget. This is one of those things for me.”

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