A new hearth and home

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Texas Woman’s University Chancellor Ann Stuart talks to attendees Thursday during the grand opening of the new University House.
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University House ready to welcome TWU’s incoming chancellor

Spacious rooms, a modern design and energy-efficient features mark the new University House unveiled Thursday with a grand opening at Texas Woman’s University.

The 5,500-square-foot house is now move-in ready for incoming TWU President and Chancellor Carine Feyten, who begins at the university July 1.

Designed and built by Kent Key Custom Homes of Denton, the new brick home has a more modern look than the 1954 house it replaced, and features four bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms and plenty of space to entertain. Some services and materials were donated by the company and outside donors, making the house a community space in addition to being a home for the new chancellor, said Sue Bancroft, chairwoman of the TWU Board of Regents.

“Without what they’ve done for TWU, we would not be able to have a chancellor’s house like this,” Bancroft said. “They helped us by taking the house down and they donated so much time and friends and suppliers, it’s been extraordinary. It truly is a Denton house, and that’s the most important thing because TWU has always been Denton.”

Other features of the home include an open kitchen so caterers can get in and out easily, a dining room and a wine cellar. In the back of the house, there is a 1,000-square-foot covered patio with a fireplace.

The home is decorated with a few photographs from events at the previous University House — a contribution from outgoing President and Chancellor Ann Stuart.

Even with all the space, heating and cooling for the home could cost less than $100 per month because of the energy-efficient features, said Kent Key, owner of the design and construction firm.

Construction began in September, after regents voted to build a new house for $500,000 instead of renovating the existing building. While under construction, Stuart lived at Gertrude Gibson House, which normally is used for special guests or faculty and staff who stay overnight.

With the help of donations, the house came in on budget, though some unanticipated work had to be done on the grounds that hasn’t yet been added to the total cost, said Brenda Floyd, TWU’s vice president for finance and administration.

“We did build it on budget, but if we built another, it wouldn’t be in this budget,” Key said, laughing.

A plaque with the donor names is being made for the front porch, as well as a plaque with the names of the regents, Floyd said.

The contractor finished on schedule. The contract specified that a state of “substantial completion” had to be reached by May 15, and it had to be move-in ready by May 31.

The cost to renovate the old building would have been too great, officials said last year, citing plumbing issues and a lack of wheelchair access.

Despite some protest from the Texas Historical Commission, which said the house had historical significance and was eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, TWU moved forward with its plans.

Stuart, who lived in the home for a decade, and other officials said they are glad they followed through with their decision.

“Let me tell you, it was time to see it go,” Stuart said. “It was a wonderful home for me, it was a wonderful home for my husband and dogs, and we had a great time there. But if you had been in it, you know it was not ADA compatible, it was not compatible for catering, which this one is. ... And I would die for this porch.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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