Renovations and refurbishment breathe new energy into Ball State’s president’s home

Topics: Administrative, President

March 15, 2017

For about eight decades, love and laughter have flowed freely from the stately Georgian Revival that sits on the tree-lined corner of Berwyn Road and Meadow Lane.

Once the family home of Alexander M. and Rosemary Ball Bracken and their children, the house in Muncie’s historic Westwood Neighborhood is today the residence of the university president and, by extension, a symbol of commitment and celebration for members of the Ball State community.

Now a grant from the George and Frances Ball Foundation has provided a refurbishment and renovation for Bracken House, as it is known, readying it for the 100th anniversary of Ball State University.

Bracken House Library

Located on the first floor of the historic Bracken House, the library has been refurbished to include classic Ball State memorabilia such as a handwritten copy of "Alma Mater" and sports team paraphernalia.

Tom Bracken, president of the George and Frances Ball Foundation, fourth-generation Ball family member and member of the Ball State Board of Trustees, said that is exactly as his grandparents wanted it.

“My time spent in this home was almost always a family gathering. We came here for holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter — and it pretty much always involved all my cousins and aunts and uncles. I remember this house always being full of people and full of activity,” he said. “My grandparents were a wonderful host and hostess for those family events, and I know it was their wish that this home continue to be a gathering place.”

“My grandparents were a wonderful host and hostess for those family events, and I know it was their wish that this home continue to be a gathering place.”

Tom Bracken
President of the George and Frances Ball Foundation

So Bracken said the forward-thinking pair made that explicit directive in their wills — and the home, which once housed a kid-size roller coaster in the basement and a stage for family theater productions, would live on in service to Ball State.

“The way the home was built, its location and proximity to Ball State… I believe my grandparents foresaw exactly what is happening now, and that this would be a wonderful gathering space for students, faculty and community members,” Bracken said.

The refurbishment, completed just this month by designer Deanna Whetstone, a 1996 interior design alumna, includes general maintenance. But it also gives a nod to the future, with enhanced community gathering and celebration spaces on the first floor of the home. Special features include some Ball State memorabilia that have been added to the first floor library, while a grand piano and antique rug, both original to the home, remain proudly in use in the living room.

The second floor of the home has been improved as private living quarters for the president and his or her family. There, a fully functioning kitchen was installed, along with separate laundry and dining areas.

Bracken House Stairway

When guests enter Bracken House, they’ll be greeted with a warm, open space that invites conversation and encourages them to linger and enjoy their surroundings.

Before this year, the home had not been renovated or refurbished since 1999. At that time, the house was converted from a private residence to the president’s home. Much of the work was structural, including the creation of a catering kitchen, and it was made accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Preparations for the university’s 100th anniversary are a fitting time for the home to receive an update, said Interim President Terry King.

And the George and Frances Ball Foundation grant ensures the home will remain a source of community pride.

“Bracken House has become the place where our senior students and faculty members come to celebrate commencement,” King said. “It is where alumni gather to reconnect with one another and reignite their passions for the university. It is where we welcome new faculty and staff members, and where we host dinners for our honorary degree recipients.

“It is a wonderful space for gathering and celebration, and we are thankful to the Bracken family for having the foresight to give it to Ball State and to the George and Frances Ball Foundation for funding the necessary renovations.”

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