BETHANY, W.Va. – Following an extensive restoration and renovation project that was completed during the 2007-08 academic year, the historic president’s house at Bethany College will receive a new name this fall as part of a dedication ceremony honoring a special friend of the state’s oldest institution of higher education.
In recognition of the support of Neil Christman ’55, a long-time Board member and benefactor, the Bethany College Board of Trustees recently voted to name the newly-restored historic residence “Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights.” A 1955 Bethany graduate with a major in Economics, Christman will be honored in a ceremony at the house on Saturday, Oct. 4 as part of the College’s Homecoming festivities.
“The Bethany College Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the naming of Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights in honor of Neil Christman,” said Greg Jordan, Global Managing Partner of Reed, Smith LLP and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Neil has been a valued member of our Board for more than a decade and a magnificent benefactor to his alma mater. This will permanently commemorate his generosity and support of this important project at our historic institution.”
The oldest building on the College campus, Pendleton Heights was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 26, 1975. It was designed and built in 1841-42 by William Kimbrough Pendleton, a member of the school’s original faculty and the second President of the College. Countless dignitaries, including United States presidents, senators and governors, have found a welcome there while visiting the College. The historic home also served as a station on the Underground Railroad which assisted slaves escaping from the slave state of Virginia to the free state of Pennsylvania in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Pendleton lived there until his retirement in 1887, when the College purchased the stately three-story brick residence. The house served as the traditional home of Bethany presidents throughout the 20th Century and hosted numerous community and College events. But time took its toll on the historic structure and the house was left empty after Dr. D. Duane Cummins completed his term as president in 2002. The College’s next two presidents, Dr. Patricia Poteat and G.T. Smith, lived in Hibernia, a college-owned residence two blocks from campus.
The Board of Trustees believed it was important for the College’s president to live on campus where the president could entertain international, national and regional visitors to Bethany and fill its traditional role as a centerpiece for campus and community functions. The historic house had not stood vacant for long when the Board made the restoration and renovation of Pendleton Heights an integral component of the Board’s vision for Bethany’s future.
Planning for the comprehensive project was completed by the Board in 2005. Much of 2006 and 2007 were devoted to the task of raising money from outside sources in order to finance the project. Word began during the fall semester of the 2006-07 academic year and continued into the spring semester of 2007-08.
Doug Gilpin of Dalgliesh, Gilpin and Paxton was the designated architect for the restoration and renovation of Pendleton Heights. The project was split into two phases.
Allegheny Restoration won the contract for Phase One, the exterior portion. Work began in February 2007 and wrapped up in October 2007. Major aspects of Phase One included the installation of a new slate roof with copper gutters and downspouts, reconstruction of the front veranda, restoration of all windows and repointing of all brickwork. Funding for Phase One was aided by a federal grant from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures Historic Preservation Fund obtained through the Office of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan.
A significant gift from Christman provided the funding needed to complete Phase Two, the interior portion. Major features of Phase Two included the installation of five forced-air furnace/air conditioning units and ductwork, new plumbing, a 400-amp electrical system, remodeling of all six bathrooms and the kitchen along with carpeting for all three floors.
Work on the interior of the 9,450-square foot, 20-room residence began in October 2007 and continued through the winter months until its completion in early April. Dr. Scott D. Miller and his wife, Annie, moved into the house on Dec. 27, 2007 and lived on the second and third floors while work continued on the main floor.
“We are extremely grateful for Neil Christman’s generous support of this significant project,” Dr. Miller said. “Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights is a wonderful example of the living history that is so much a part of Bethany College. As President of the College, I live in the middle of the oldest college campus in West Virginia in a house that has sheltered everyone from United States presidents to runaway slaves for nearly 170 years. The spirit of leadership and philanthropy Neil has demonstrated is a shining example of the force that drives Bethany’s stature as a small college of national distinction.”
Christman has served on Bethany’s Board of Trustees since 1996 and was the recipient of the Alumni Council’s 2004 Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award. He was president of Chris Volvo of Marietta, Ga.; Chris BMW of Decatur, Ga.; and Chief Executive Officer of North Point Volvo of Alpharetta, Ga. until 2003. He is managing partner of Chris Associates: Real Estate Partnership and Chris Management Services: Management and Computer Services Partnership, both located in Decatur, Ga. His automobile dealership was a five-time winner of the National Dealer of Excellence Award. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Christman and his wife, Jackie, reside in Alpharetta, Ga. They are the parents of four children — Lori, Kathryn, Joyce and Dale.