SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Wittenberg University's historic Benjamin Prince House is getting a makeover this summer to restore it to its mid-19th century glory.
Columbus interior designer Susan Baas is assisting Sarah Tipson, wife of Wittenberg president Baird Tipson, in returning the mansion to its more historically accurate roots.
Already wallpaper has been removed and the interior repainted in bold colors. All furnishings and accessories will be replaced in the fall. Next, carpeting will be removed, to be replaced by new hardwood flooring.
The initial phases of the restoration have been financed by a special fund set up by the Benjamin Prince Society, comprising the university's most generous donors. Robert Van Kleunen, the society's president, and his wife Barbara led the effort for the improvements because of the historical significance of the structure. Funding to complete the work is still being actively sought.
The house is featured in the September issue of Ohio Magazine in a travel feature on presidential homes and the campuses of Miami University, Ohio University, and Oberlin College in addition to Wittenberg. "The campus is charismatic... like a clandestine village complete with its own castle," the magazine says of Wittenberg.
The Benjamin Prince House was built between 1857-60, soon after Wittenberg's original building, Myers Hall was completed. Wittenberg professor Isaac Sprecher had the mansion built, using limestone from what is now Veterans' Memorial Park for the foundation.
Another professor, Benjamin Prince, an 1865 graduate, lived in the home between 1883 and his death in 1933. During many of those years, every Wittenberg student was required to visit Prince's home to pay their annual tuition.
Prince is a legendary figure in Wittenberg history, serving on the faculty and in other key roles for 69 years. He was a Wittenberg student during the Civil War and, through his long life serving the college, was significant to its development for almost half of its full history.
The home is at the corner of Wittenberg Ave. and West Ward Street in Springfield, just opposite the traditional entrance to campus. It is primarily Federal in design, with some traces of Greek Revival architecture, which was becoming popular at that time.
When Wittenberg purchased the home in 1949, it became the President's Residence. Then President Clarence C. Stoughton initiated the mansion's first major renovation in 1954-55, funded by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Davis.
When President Tipson arrived at Wittenberg in 1995, he and Mrs. Tipson opted to live in the cozy cottage, the Bayley-Diehl House, next door. The Benjamin Prince House has since served as a guest house.
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