President's Residence to get summer renovation

The iconic President’s Residence at the University of Saskatchewan is scheduled for a makeover this summer.

The greystone residence, home of the university's first president Walter Murray and subsequent holders of that office, was completed in 1913 at a cost of $44,615 and is considered one of the finest homes in the city. Colin Tennent, associate vice-president of facilities and university architect, said it has been maintained in good condition over the years "but it's been some time since we did core work on the building. We've invested where we felt it was strategically important or where there was a risk of future damage … and there are lists as long as my arm of things we'd eventually like to do but the work over the summer will be functional and cosmetic as opposed to structural."

The window of opportunity to do renovation work on the house is being created by president designate Ilene Busch-Vishniac. Although she takes over as U of S president July 1, Busch-Vishniac has agreed to move into rental accommodation to allow for renovations to take place in July and August.

Tennent said Busch-Vischniac has been involved in the planning and will continue to be consulted about her preferences as the work schedule is finalized.

The lion's share of the work will be done in the house's main floor kitchen. Some material and configuration choices made over the years in that room have departed from the character of the house, he said, and the intent is to recapture that essence through elements like the cupboards, woodwork and even in details like heating register covers.

One of the challenges, said Tennent, is that while the kitchen is for the private use of the president and her family, it is also a hub for the entertaining that goes on in the residence, a tricky combination of residential and commercial.

The renovation is also expected to include refinishing the wood floors on the main level with particular emphasis on the entryway. The installation of tile on the floor there created what Tennent termed "a mid-70s feel" that needs to be addressed to preserve continuity of style throughout the home.

Moving to the second floor of the residence, which is private family space, the focus will be on ensuring it is comfortable and well appointed. Tennent added there may be some functional changes made to address issues like bathroom access but consultation with the incoming president will continue before final renovation plans are made.

The summer will also allow for plaster repairs and painting throughout the building.

"We don't want to bite off more than we can chew in a two-month window. There are a lot of folks here (in the Facilities Management Division) who will bend over backwards to make sure the house is in the best shape it can be but we want no dust, no muss, no fuss when the president moves in. We want to get them into a comfortable, functional house."

Editor's Note: The homepage photo of the President's Residence is from University Archives, A-711, (ca. 1918).

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