One of the most surprising buildings on BYU campus is the small, Tudor style cottage on the south-west end of campus. Currently housing BYU Graduate Studies, this building originally functioned as a home, housing many BYU Presidents and their families.
Between 1928-1990, BYU Presidents lived in a residence on campus. The first BYU Presidents lived in the small neighborhoods surrounding campus. President George H. Brimhall lived in a home on 100 North, now known as the John R. Twelves House, and when his presidency ended, he allowed President Franklin S. Harris and his family to live in the home. During President Harris’ tenure, the board of trustees began to make plans for a permanent home for university presidents.
In 1909, BYU faculty member Henry Peterson built a home on Temple Hill, the south-west hill portion of the campus. Peterson resided there until BYU bought the home and land in 1923. In 1927 the trustees, looking for a permanent residence for the university president, felt that the home would be a perfect fit. After extensive renovations, President Franklin S. Harris and his family took up residence in the Presidents’ Home in 1928.
Each BYU President made their own additions to the home to accommodate their family situation at the time. Renovations included the tudor exterior, “a library, a fireplace in the front room, a double garage, two bathrooms, a front sun porch, and a sleeping porch.” Matthew Holland, former UVU President and son of Jeffrey R. Holland who served as President of BYU from 1980 to 1989, lived in the home with his family. Holland recalls how the previous president and his family, the Oaks’, had turned the back balcony into bedrooms to accommodate their large family and had added carpet. During their stay, the Holland’s turned the front porch into a sunroom, painted the outside brown and cream, and pulled up most of the carpeting to restore the original hardwood floors.
Matthew Holland remembered living in the home as “fun and interesting with only a modicum of inconvenience and irritation.” He felt that his parents were very personable and living close to the students only enhanced that image; they were part of a “university family, and Pat and Jeff Holland were the head of it.” Matthew and his sister lived in the home during their time as BYU students, and he describes that time living together on campus as “one of the high points of the Holland family experience.”
After President Holland’s tenure, President Rex E. Lee and his family decided to remain in their own home which was close to campus. The President’s home was then used as a visitor’s center until 2008, when the Hinckley Alumni Center was completed. Ron Clark, former director of Public Affairs and Guest Relations at BYU, recalled a visit from then U.S. President Ronald Reagan to the home when it was a visitor’s center. He remembers President Reagan remarking “there’s a good feeling in this home. It has a wonderful spirit.”
The Former President’s Home now hosts the Graduate Studies Office. Graduate Studies has attempted to maintain some of the integrity of the original home so few renovations have been made and much of the original furniture and structure remain. Although the home does not house the current BYU president, it stands as a reminder of BYU’s history and the role university presidents play in the lives of students.