Most Precious Memories
oldest residence, the Presidents House in Oxford has housed
Methodist ministers, college presidents, and the Deans of Oxford
College and their familiesfor nearly one hundred
and seventy years.
Presidents House at Oxford College, Emorys oldest
property, remains a serene, beautiful place, just as it was when
the Reverend William Parks wife, Dolly Burge, lived there
for the first time in its history, a woman lives in the house
not because she is the spouse of an Emory president, Methodist
minister, or Oxford dean, but because she is dean.
Greene 71G has occupied both the job and the residence
since July 1999. This spring morning, fresh strawberries sit
on the kitchen counter, and camellias have been plucked from
a bush just outside the back door and placed in a vase. Greenes
first grandchild, three-month-old Sofia, is visiting.
of the great treats of this job is to live in this house,
she says, looking out onto a generous expanse of lawn from the
kitchens bay window.
stately yet comfortable house seems to engender strong attachments.
in 1836 for Emory President Ignatius Alphonso Few, first president
of Emory College and a founder of both the college and the town
of Oxford, the residence served as home to leaders of the Methodist
Church, such as Parks, and seven Emory presidentsFew,
Augustus B. Longstreet, George F. Pierce, Atticus Haygood, Warren
A. Candler, Charles E. Dowman, and James E. Dickey.
Emory moved to Atlanta, the house became the residence of the
deans of Oxford College, including all of the colleges
living deansN. Bond Fleming 33C-36T, J. William
Moncrief, William H. Murdy, and Greene.
of many of the homes former tenants adorn a downstairs
wall. All are men, with the exception of Dolly Burge, who lived
in the house from 1866 to 1875. I just wanted to have
a woman up there, says Greene, who hung the portrait and
also keeps a copy of Burges diary at hand, which contains
several entries from her years in Oxford.
Burge speaks with much happiness of their first few years in
the home after her marriage to Uncle Billy Parks,
a prominent Methodist minister, his health failed rapidly. Upon
Parks death in 1873, Burge was allowed to stay in the
home for two years, although their furniture was sold to the
highest bidder on the front lawn immediately after his death.
wrote of the sale in her diary, which has been published in
book form: It is enough to lay the loved one in the grave
to come home and hide ones self among the fireside relics and
feel that they are all and almost parts of the lost and then
to have them taken by rough hands from us is almost too much!,
she wrote, later calling herself a boarder in my own house.
house was purchased by Atticus Haygood 1859C in 1875, the first
year of his Emory presidency, for three thousand dollars. (It
is worth at least five thousand, wrote Burge, and
now that it is done, I almost wish that I had bought it myself
I so much hate to leave it.)
1889, Young L. G. Harris, a member of Emory Colleges Board
of Trustees, bought the house and presented it to Emory.
built in a two over two design, with a dining room
and sitting room downstairs, topped by two upstairs bedrooms,
the house at 1205 Wesley Street is a blend of architectural
styles, from Greek revival to Victorian. It has pine floors,
high ceilings, broad molding, and eight fireplaces, seven of
which still function. Large windows provide plenty of cross-ventilation.
are lots of little nooks and crannies, says Greene. It
would be fun to be a kid here.
1841, Longstreet added two freestanding wing rooms, which jut
out from opposite ends of the front porch and have their own
entrances and fireplaces. Greenes husband, Richard, has
taken over one of the rooms as a study.
Oxford Dean William Murdy, who lived in the home from 1988 to
1999, said he and his wife, Nancy, also enjoyed the wing additions,
using one as a game room where they would shoot pool with visiting
and sometimes bats, would roost inside the houses many
chimneys, he recalls. Once, while sitting outside in the evening,
he counted thirty-four birds flying into a single chimney. They
could make quite a racket when they were disturbed, he
loved the house, Murdy says. Our children and grandchildren
lived nearby and loved to come and stay over. We would have
Thanksgiving and Christmas there.
he and his wife moved out, they at first returned to their home
in Decatur, but in 2002, purchased a former bed and breakfast
directly across the street from the Presidents House.
We like the town of Oxford, he says.
Fleming, and his wife, Mary Louise, who occupied the house from
1966 to1976, also stayed close, now living on Moore Street directly
behind the colleges tennis courts. Our younger children
grew up [in the Presidents House]Jane, John, and
Becky. We had a wonderful time there. I had a room on the south
side of the home, my wife had a room in the back, and then we
had The Bishops Room, which held the portraits
of three early bishops of the Methodist Church.
town is so beautiful and cordial and friendly, says Fleming,
who teaches an adult Sunday School class at Allen Memorial Methodist
the late U.S. Senator Lucius Q. C. Lamar, who married Augustus
Longstreets daughter in the Presidents House in
July of 1847, said it best. Upon a return visit, he grew teary.
It is filled, he said as he stood before the home,
with the most precious memories. M.J.L.