Chapman University’s Elliott Alumni House received one of the top honors at the 17th Annual Old Towne Preservation Association Awards, which were presented on May 22 at a dinner gala held at the Women’s Club of Orange. Kris Eric Olsen, Chapman’s vice president of campus planning and operations, was on hand to accept the Special Merit/Adaptive Re-Use Award, which “recognizes the significant contribution to preservation and sympathetic reuse of an historic building in Old Towne,” for the Alumni House. “It’s an award that’s not given out every year – only in cases of significant achievement,” reported Olsen. “Our slideshow images of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ incarnations of the house were greeted with appreciative oohs and aahs from the packed audience.”
Take a look at our own video tour and you’ll see what the excitement was all about!
The historic Folk Victorian manor, located at the corner of North Olive Street and West Maple Avenue, is a familiar landmark in Old Towne. Built in 1904 by William and Ella Granger, founders of the First National Bank of Orange on the Plaza, the house is rich with more than a century of heritage. In the past decade, it gained local fame as the flamboyantly purple Victorian Manor Tea House, and also garnered a touch of infamy when the Haunted Orange Ghost Walk tapped it as one of the “most haunted buildings in Orange County.” The manor was purchased by Chapman in March 2010 for $1.2 million, and the university has invested more than $400,000 in its stunning renovation. The house was re-named in honor of Chapman alumni Tom ’60 and Pat ’60, ’74 Elliott, whose leadership gift helped to make the purchase and beautiful renovation possible. After temporarily housing Dodge College faculty last fall, the manor became headquarters for Chapman’s Alumni Relations staff, which relocated there in March 2011.
No longer a violet hue, the exterior now is smartly painted in period-accurate colors of green, tan and red. The spacious front parlor – which the tea room had gussied up in bright pink and lavender with fun murals of tea-sipping ladies emblazoned on the walls – is now elegantly repainted in a sedate (and, again, historically appropriate) color scheme of light teal and gold. The subdued colors play up the gleaming original woodwork mouldings, hand-carved banisters and door and window frames, all made of European cherry wood imported from England on Mr. Granger’s grandfather’s sailing ship. The original window pulleys still work today just as they did when the house was first built. The window glass is also original.
And maybe those ghostly spirits were just restless because they hated purple, because the Alumni Relations staff has reported no paranormal sightings – nary a cold spot – since the refurbishment.
“Designating this historic manor as our Alumni House strengthens the connection between our university and Old Towne Orange,” says David Moore, Chapman’s director of planned giving. “The manor is an inviting space – rich with heritage and legacy – that Chapman alumni can now proudly call their own.”
Chapman University is approaching the halfway point in its campaign to raise $2.1 million for Elliott Alumni House. This includes the original property acquisition, renovations and the establishment of endowments for building maintenance and alumni programs.
Adjacent to the Elliott Alumni House is a vacant lot of approximately 14,000 square feet that is also owned by Chapman University. In a second phase of the project, an alumni center is envisioned.