A different kind of on-campus living




Outgoing First Lady Patsy Todd said the most important thing she does with Maxwell Place, the on-campus presidential home, is preserve it.

“There’s just so many human stories,” she said about the house.

Located next to Chem-Phys and the King Library, the Maxwell Place grounds serve as a shortcut to the W.T. Young Library. It’s a homing beacon of sorts in the middle of campus.

At least that’s the feel the Todd and her husband, outgoing UK President Lee Todd, want it to have.

Throughout their tenure, the Todds have offered cookies to those knocking at their door (but nothing store bought — “I want ‘em homemade,” Patsy Todd said). The tradition they started, though, goes beyond easing a student’s midday sweet tooth.

“It gives students a reason to knock on my door,” Todd said.

She said that even after she and the president leave their posts at the end of the month, they won’t stop involvement with the university, and especially its students.

Maxwell Place Tour – Images by Kentucky Kernel

“We’re looking forward to spending time with students when we’re not in the presidential position anymore,” she said. “We’ll just have to have students around all the time.”

The house has more connections to the university community beyond its location and residents. In multiple rooms, cabinets and tables made by the UK Physical Plant Division mesh with antique furniture, giving the home a feel of novelty and warmth. Portraits of important people tied to the university and state — like Stephen Foster, who wrote “My Old Kentucky Home” — line the walls.

Katy Bennett, of UK Public Relations, said Maxwell Place has been used by Greek organizations and the Confucius Institute for special events, among many others.

She said there’s a living quarters above the garage, not attached to the house, where it is rumored students used to live, including the Todds’ daughter Kathryn.

Todd had taken most of her personal items out of the house as her departure draws near, but personal family photos still hang in some rooms.

She chose the furniture and fabrics upholstering the items that will replace her own.

“When I took my personal things out, I replaced them with warm things,” Todd said.

The Todds lived for four full years at Maxwell Place, but they have split the rest of their time between it and their other home.

Todd said her son tended to their house while the rest of the family stayed at Maxwell Place, but he eventually wanted to get a place of his own.

Maxwell Place has a music room, dining room, multiple living room areas, an enclosed front porch and patio, kitchen and multiple bedrooms — one of which is called the Spindletop Room, after the UK-owned property Spindletop Hall in northern Lexington from where some of the furniture was taken.

“People enjoy using Maxwell Place, but especially the adjoining rooms,” Todd said. “This house is meant to have people in it.”

The layout of the house is mostly open, with few actual doors connecting rooms and more open doorways. Natural light enters through numerous tall windows and glass doors.

Most of the rooms are filled with furniture, lamps and decorations of some sort — all except for Lee Todd’s office, which is bare except for a couple of cabinets, a rug and a desk chair.

Current University of Alabama-Birmingham Provost Eli Capilouto and wife Mary Lynne will take the helm of the university as its new first family, beginning in July.

Patsy Todd said she expects the Capiloutos will live at Maxwell Place, as is the tradition. Whether they will continue the cookie-giving tradition is yet to be determined. When asked by the Kernel if he would have home-baked cookies prepared for students, Eli Capilouto said, “We’ll do something.”

“I’ve always told our students that Maxwell Place should be a part of your heritage,” Todd said. “This should be a place where you can always come back.”