On July 13, 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War, Union’s fourth president,
Eliphalet Nott and his wife, Urania, moved into an elegant, new two-story house on the southern edge of campus.
Designed in 1813 by the campus architect, Joseph Jacques Ramée, the house was originally to be built at the present site of Schaffer Library. The design was later adapted by Nott’s grandson, Edward Tuckerman Potter – architect of the Nott Memorial – and was placed in its current location inside the Blue Gate.
Nott, who served Union for 62 years, spent the last five years of his life in the house. Since then, the home has hosted 11 presidential families and been the setting for countless academic, social and cultural events for students, faculty and staff. When Stephen Ainlay became Union’s 18th president in 2006, he and his wife, Judith, moved into the home, and Judith has taken on the restoration and decoration of the historic house and its expansive sunken gardens.
To mark the home’s 150th anniversary, the house will be featured on the Junior League of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties Presidential House Tour and Holiday Boutique Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3.
The tour is open to the public. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $20, or at the door for $25. All tickets also include admission to the Junior League’s Holiday Boutique at Proctors Theatre.
Advance tickets may be purchased from the Union College Communications Office at 69 Union Avenue (cash or check only) until the day of the event.
Tour hours are Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Displaying elements of the Federal style with its straight lines and low pitched roof, the home features 12-foot ceilings and includes a music room, parlor, library and a conservatory, which was added in 1916. It is decorated in the colors characterizing the latter part of the 19th century, with an effort to make it both comfortable and useful for modern use.
Furnishings are an eclectic mix of antiques, portraits and paintings spanning nearly four centuries. Visitors will notice an 1869 Steinway and antique Delft tiles in the music room, a 1780 Dutch clock at the top of the main staircase and the portrait gallery and Waterford chandelier in the grand foyer.
Another highlight is the French “Views of North America” hand-printed wallpaper from 1834 in the dining room, which depicts scenic views of West Point, Niagara Falls, the Natural Bridge in Virginia, Boston Harbor and the palisades along the Hudson River.
The home also features Jane Stewart portraits of George and Martha Washington in the parlor and the original “Nott Stove” in the conservatory.
After Eliphalet Nott’s death in 1866, Urania continued to live in the President’s House until she died in 1886. A portrait of her by renowned artist Thomas Sully that the College had restored in 2006 watches over visitors in the grand foyer.