FAU’s White House ready for Brogan

As she opens the door of the mansion, she smiles and introduces herself: “Welcome to the Eleanor Baldwin House. My name is Jennifer O’Flannery.” Thus begins a tour of the home of the next president of Florida Atlantic University.

The Eleanor R. Baldwin House is named after a Boca Raton resident and former high school teacher who wanted to make a contribution to FAU. After much thought, she decided to donate the money to build a presidential residence that also can be used as a reception center and guesthouse. Construction of the 14,000-square-foot building began near the 20th Street entrance to the Boca Raton campus in July 2001 and was completed in June. It was dedicated on June 6.

O’Flannery has the job of planning events to be held at the Baldwin House. She also has overseen all construction, interior design and furnishing, landscaping and grounds keeping for the mansion.

The interior of the Baldwin House is exquisitely designed. From the Indonesian marble floors to a 2,000-pound handmade mosaic of the university seal placed in the entryway floor, it is clear that great thought was put into the project.

Visitors see many unusual artifacts placed about the house. For instance, in the first-floor library there is a glass-encased book written by Randolph Churchill, son of the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The signed book was given to the late First Lady Jacquelyn Kennedy for Christmas 1961. It was purchased at a Sotheby’s auction and then donated to the Baldwin House.

The house also has a collection of colorful sculptures by Ertes, a clothing designer from the 1920s. Some of the sculptures have previously been on loan at local art museums. Most of the sculptures are of women wearing the designs of Ertes. The sculptures are on display in the parlor, which is called the Ertes Room.

An addition that will be coming soon to the Baldwin House is a solid bronze fountain that was designed by local artist Bill Klug and is being constructed in Thailand. Because the University’s mascot is an owl, the fountain is being created to imitate a burrowing owl habitat. The fountain is 14 feet tall. It weighs approximately 3,000 pounds.

The cost of constructing the Baldwin House was about $2 million. Eleanor Baldwin donated $1.5 million and another $500,000 was provided by two donors – former Board of Trustees Chairman John Temple, for whom the dining room is named, and the Altman family, who made a donation in honor of their father Sydney.

Some might think that because the Baldwin House has reception facilities that it can be used for any event relating to FAU. O’Flannery explains that is not the case. “This is the president’s house and a president will be in residence. We have events here that the president or his/her spouse hosts that are official events of the university. The facility is not available for rent.

“The occasions taking place at the Baldwin House commemorate a significant milestone for the university. Those visiting the house are guests of the university and the president.”

The actual residence of the president is located in half of the second floor. The new president will get to select the furnishings. Of the president’s residence, O’Flannery says, “It has a living room, dining room, kitchen, family room. It feels like a condominium. It has a nice master bedroom/bathroom, and then it has an office.

“On the other wing of the house (on the second floor) are two guest rooms with their own bathrooms, and they have their own entrances. We have the possibility of having dignitaries stay here.”

O’Flannery previously worked for six years as an event coordinator at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Part of her responsibilities there was the president’s residence. She has a master’s degree from the University of South Florida and is currently finishing a Ph.D. in public administration at FAU.

The Baldwin House has hosted many events recently, O’Flannery notes. “We had the state Holocaust Education Task Force dinner, a commencement luncheon, a welcome reception for all of the faculty; we had a Student Government leaders’ reception, a luncheon for the university’s support staff, and many other events.”

The biggest event so far has been the ribbon cutting for the Baldwin House, which hosted 500, O’Flannery says.

O’Flannery looks forward to the arrival of the new president and his family. She takes pride in the beautiful residence as if it were her own.

After all, she has been there from the beginning.

To learn more about the Baldwin House or take a virtual tour, go to www.fau.edu/president/baldwin.