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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

President’s house sold for 2.06 million

Published: October 25, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

Brandeis has sold its President’s house in Newton. After selling the historic home in 1990 and then buying it again, at the beginning of former university president Jehuda Reinharz’ tenure as university president, the university sold the historic home after President Fred Lawrence moved into a rented Waltham apartment this summer.

The house at 66 Beaumont Avenue in Newton, located five miles from campus, was on the market for five months and sold quickly for a house valued at $2.21 million, according to Bill Burger, Associate Vice President of Communications. A Newton family bought it for $2.06 million dollars.

The 5,600-square-foot colonial with four bedrooms has a lot size of 35,000 square feet. It was built circa 1910 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

“The house is configured for entertaining on a large scale,” Brandeis’ real estate broker, Ezra Stillman of Hammond Residential Real Estate, told the Boston Herald earlier this month. “You could comfortably have a party for 100 guests because you have some very large rooms and the kitchen has three ovens, multiple fridges—multiple everything.”

It is notable that the university sold the house because of its long history as an off-campus extension of Brandeis. The university acquired it in 1948, the same year that Brandeis was founded.

University presidents beginning with Abram Sachar, Brandeis’ founding president, have lived there and hosted many prominent public figures, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama.

The house was sold for the first time in 1990, to Roger Berkowitz, founder of Legal Sea Foods. Brandeis reacquired it in 1994 to accommodate Reinharz at the start of his presidency. Reinharz and his wife, Shulamit, director of the Women’s Studies Research Center, lived there from 1994 until 2009, when he retired. At this point, the house needed “TLC and some significant repairs and maintenance work,” Burger said.

The university decided to sell the President’s House this year, when instead of moving to the mansion, Lawrence and his wife, Dr. Kathy Lawrence, moved from a rented Cambridge apartment to one of the newly renovated Watch Factory Apartments on Crescent Street along the Charles River in Waltham. The university signed a three-year lease on the apartment, according to Mark Collins, senior vice president for administration.

Lawrence is now the first Brandeis president to permanently reside in Waltham. Past presidents lived in university-owned houses in Weston and West Newton, or in their own homes. Lawrence, however, chose to live within walking distance of campus, less than a mile away, instead of a university-rented apartment in Cambridge so that he could become a more active and visible participant in daily student life.

Now, Lawrence easily strolls back and forth from campus on Friday nights after attending Brandeis Shabbat dinners, and occasionally invites students over for dinner.

“Brandeis is a big part of this city and we’re excited about joining the Waltham community as residents,” Lawrence said in a statement earlier this year to BrandeisNOW. “It will be more convenient for students, faculty, staff, trustees and friends of the university to join us at our home. It is something we really enjoy and this will allow us to do more of it,” he said.

“Yes, the President’s House does have important historical value and sentimental value for some people, but that was not enough to outweigh the Lawrences’ desire to be closer to campus, and have more frequent meaningful interactions with students,” Burger said.

Reinharz, who entertained students, faculty, alumni and friends at the house constantly, said that he respect’s the university’s decision to do what Lawrence and the board think is best.

“It’s really not for me to say what is the right thing for the current president and the board of trustees,” Reinharz said.

The sale of the house will also benefit Brandeis financially, according to Burger. Brandeis plans to keep the proceeds from the sale and use them to continue improving campus after the economic downturn, or keep them to possibly invest in another presidential residence in the future.