President’s house open

The historic Wilcox-Mills House on Fifth and Putnam streets has been the home of Marietta College presidents for more than seven decades. Now, in the hope that the house can also serve a greater purpose, current Marietta College President Joseph Bruno and wife Diane are opening up their home for use by area nonprofits and local students.

“I really want people to see this beautiful home and experience it as Joe and I get to do. It’s really quite a gem,” said Diane Bruno of the Federal style home, which was built in 1822 and purchased by the college in 1937.

The home’s open layout and spacious outdoor patios and gardens make it an ideal location for hosting events, something the Brunos realized could be an asset to area nonprofits while attending a charitable event held by the Middlesex Historical Society at the Connecticut Governor’s Residence shortly before leaving Connecticut for Marietta.

“When Joe and I walked in we looked at each other and thought, ‘Wow. Wouldn’t this be wonderful to have in Marietta?'” she said.

Diane reached out to the college about the idea and everyone was quick to jump on board, she said.

A reception was hosted at the home May 2 for nonprofit organizations to tour the site and see how it might be used to their benefit. About 25 people attended and one organization has already scheduled an event at the home.

Artsbridge is slated to host a garden party there May 17 to raise money for its United Arts Fund Drive, said Artsbridge director Mark Lanyon.

“Everything is being donated or is very low cost to us so all the money will go toward the arts,” he said.

Though it serves both sides of the river, Artsbridge has typically held fundraisers in Parkersburg. The opening of the president’s house gives the group the opportunity to reach out to their Ohio supporters, Lanyon said.

Tickets are still available for $50 per person by calling Artsbridge at 304-428-3988. They include tours of the house, music by a string quartet from the River City Symphony Orchestra and a picnic basket stocked with a chicken or vegetarian meal and a bottle of wine, he said.

No other nonprofits have scheduled events at the house, but other groups have also expressed an interest in using the property, said Diane Bruno.

There is a nominal fee to reserve the home-$100, which goes toward cleaning up after an event, she said. Both Washington County and Wood County, W.Va., nonprofits are able to reserve the home by contacting Marietta College’s Director of Conference Services Laurie McKain at 376-4735.

Because of its historical significance, the home is also a great place for curious young students to tour, said Diane Bruno.

The home was built in 1822 by Henry P. Wilcox, Marietta’s eighth postmaster, and was purchased in 1840 in Col. John Mills, an area businessman. In 1910, President William H. Taft stayed in the home during Marietta’s College’s 75th anniversary celebration.

“Just think if you’re a fourth or fifth grader how cool it would be to come here,” said Diane.

One group of Salem-Liberty Elementary students are scheduled to tour the home Monday as part of a Marietta field trip, said Salem-Liberty Intervention Specialist Renay Eddy.

“We decided this year we wanted to do something in our own backyard. Marietta is such a great place and some of the kids don’t really realize all the great things they have right here,” explained Eddy of the field trip.

The Monday field trip will be the 41st event the Brunos have hosted at their home since taking up residence in July, said Diane.

“We love having these events here. If we can make it happen, we will make it happen,” she said.