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College Sells Eleazar’s Place

Wheelock House2.jpgThe Valley News had a thorough report last week on the sale of Eleazar Wheelock’s house at 4 West Wheelock, but a few notes should be added to the story.

Dartmouth is the only colonial college (of the original nine) whose founder’s house still exists — even if it now has a flower shop et al. as tenants. The building, which has had numerous different occupants exercising multiple functions over the years, was not built on the site. Rumor has it that the good Reverend liked to walk to work, so the house was constructed for him in 1773 next to Dartmouth Hall, where Reed Hall currently stands. His previous residence, a log cabin situated close by, was retained for a decade and used to house slaves. The Mansion House, as it was called, was the residence of Dartmouth’s subsequent four Presidents (John Wheelock ‘71; William Allen, the President of short-lived Dartmouth University; Bennet Tyler; and Nathan Lord) through 1830. The College bought the house from the Wheelock family in 1838, when it wished to construct Reed. It promptly sold it and the new owner moved it to its present location (by rolling it on logs) as the below plaque states:

Wheelock House Plaque.jpg

The sale is part of Dartmouth’s current operation to divest itself of many of the miscellaneous pieces of Upper Valley real estate that its endowment owns — investments that are generating little, if any, return; not a good strategy when the entire endowment is performing so well (+19.3% in 2014 and +8.3% in 2015). (Full disclosure: the College sold my local company a two-acre piece of land in Centerra as part of the same effort.) This year four pieces of property have been sold, with more to come.

This sale has the additional benefit that the purchaser, the Eleazar Wheelock Society, intends to create bedroom space for 24-28 students — a good step, given that the College is once again short of beds. EWS lists its mission as follows:

EWS exists to further the interests, welfare, and educational purposes of Dartmouth College by engaging the personal, professional, and financial resources of Dartmouth alumni to create environments among students, faculty, and alumni that elevate reason, promote development of robust ethical value systems, stimulate constructive discussion among faiths, and share Christian perspectives.

EWS’ planned $2.5 million renovation and expansion calls for several large function rooms and a large kitchen, in addition to single bedrooms and shared bathrooms. The organization intends for Wheelock House to be a center of Christian community and campus events. The renovation project will be directed by EWS president David Allman ‘76, the founder and chairman of Regent Partners, an Atlanta-based commercial real estate developer.

Addendum: Dartmouth College: An Architectural Tour (The Campus Guide) by Scott Meacham ‘95 is an excellent study of the College’s buildlings. Scott also writes a blog: Dartmo.: The Buildings of Dartmouth College.

Erratum: An earlier version of this post contained my erroneous recollection that the Café de la Fraise restaurant operated in Eleazar Wheelock’s house in the 1990’s. Café de la Fraise inhabited 8 West Wheelock Street, where Redpath Realty now operates. No less than the New York Times confirms this fact. Thank you very much to an alert reader for pointing out my error.

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