Oxford Dean Dana Greene and former deans N. Bond Fleming (middle) and William Murdy













‘The Most Precious Memories’

Emory’s oldest residence, the President’s House in Oxford has housed Methodist ministers, college presidents, and the Deans of Oxford College — and their families—for nearly one hundred and seventy years.

The President’s House at Oxford College, Emory’s oldest property, remains a serene, beautiful place, just as it was when the Reverend William Parks’ wife, Dolly Burge, lived there in 1868.

And, 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.

Dana 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. Greene’s first grandchild, three-month-old Sofia, is visiting.

“One 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 kitchen’s bay window.

The stately yet comfortable house seems to engender strong attachments.

Built 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 presidents–Few, Augustus B. Longstreet, George F. Pierce, Atticus Haygood, Warren A. Candler, Charles E. Dowman, and James E. Dickey.

After Emory moved to Atlanta, the house became the residence of the deans of Oxford College, including all of the college’s living deans–N. Bond Fleming ’33C-’36T, J. William Moncrief, William H. Murdy, and Greene.

Portraits of many of the home’s 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 Burge’s diary at hand, which contains several entries from her years in Oxford.

While 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.

Burge 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.”

The 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.”)

In 1889, Young L. G. Harris, a member of Emory College’s Board of Trustees, bought the house and presented it to Emory.

Originally 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.

“There are lots of little nooks and crannies,” says Greene. “It would be fun to be a kid here.”

In 1841, Longstreet added two freestanding wing rooms, which jut out from opposite ends of the front porch and have their own entrances and fireplaces. Greene’s husband, Richard, has taken over one of the rooms as a study.

Former 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 students.

Birds, 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 said.

“We 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.”

When 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 President’s House. “We like the town of Oxford,” he says.

Dean Fleming, and his wife, Mary Louise, who occupied the house from 1966 to1976, also stayed close, now living on Moore Street directly behind the college’s tennis courts. “Our younger children grew up [in the President’s 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 Bishop’s Room,’ which held the portraits of three early bishops of the Methodist Church.

“This town is so beautiful and cordial and friendly,“ says Fleming, who teaches an adult Sunday School class at Allen Memorial Methodist Church.

Perhaps the late U.S. Senator Lucius Q. C. Lamar, who married Augustus Longstreet’s daughter in the President’s 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.




© 2004 Emory University