Restoring the Columns at the President’s House – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Restoring the Columns at the President’s House

After nearly 200 years of service holding up the front of the President’s Home on South Main Street, the building’s original Greek Doric columns that have defined the structure for generations are in dire need of repair.

“These are literally the original wooden columns from 1836,” says Associate Director for Planning and Construction and Senior Project Manager Chris Button. “There is visible rot, degradation and evidence of repair upon repair.” The Colleges performed a structural evaluation to determine the safety and longevity of the columns.

“The engineer was able to easily poke holes through the soft wood, and the column shafts and the abacus are showing signs of collapse,” Button explains. “Without intervention now, the front columns will quickly disintegrate and the front of the house will sag.”


Holes in the Greek Doric columns are visible where the structural evaluation was performed.

The evaluation, performed by Kevin Place of Place Structural Design, concluded that a full repair or replacement was necessary to prevent permanent structural and aesthetic damage to the house.

“As we looked at the project, we wanted to respect the historic integrity of the home and its importance to the Colleges and Geneva,” explains Button. “We also sought a cost-effective solution. After the structural evaluation and after working with the Geneva Historic District Commission, it became obvious that a complete restoration would align both of our goals.”

 Originally, the President's House had a porch on the second floor. It was removed at an unknown date in its history.

The President’s House used to have a porch on the second floor. It was removed at an unknown date in its history.

The President’s House used to have a porch on the second floor. It was removed at an unknown date in its history.

The Colleges worked closely with Ford Weiskittel of the Geneva Historic District Commission to develop a plan for the column replacement project. After evaluating new wood and fiberglass options, we’ve chosen to restore the original columns.

“For me, I think the most important point is that Geneva has a significant architectural heritage that benefits us all by providing an eclectic, varied and stimulating environment,” Weiskittel says. “And in that environment, the President’s house stands out as the most important building in all of Geneva, given both its visibility and importance for the HWS community and its historic character and visibility for the community as a whole. It should be a cynosure for all of us, even those who might think themselves not affected by their environment.”

Purchased by Hobart College in 1884, the President’s Home was the former residence of a New York City auctioneer named Adrian Muller constructed in 1836. Like many other homes in the area built during the early to mid-1800s, it was designed in the style of the Greek Revival.

After a competitive bidding process, the Colleges selected Jim Turner of the Honeoye Falls Millwork Company to complete the column restorations and Diamond and Thiel of Syracuse as the general contractor.

“We’re excited about the historical implications of this decision, as well as the opportunity to use local vendors for such an important project,” Button says.