University presidents have lived rent-free in the big house at 570 Prince Ave. since 1949, when a Columbus foundation donated money to help the University System Board of Regents acquire the property.
UGA President Michael Adams hasn't lived in the house for nine years, however. Adams and his family moved to a Lake Oconee house to get more privacy, said the president, who gets a $19,400 housing allowance from the state as part of his $604,864 compensation package.
Adams is not the first UGA president to move out. Charles Knapp also left for a place of his own choosing after several years, said UGA Campus Architect Danny Sniff.
Although no one lives in the mansion, university workers still maintain and guard the house.
UGA officials documented about $220,000 in expenses last year for the house and 5-acre grounds, valued at about $4.7 million on Clarke County tax records.
The UGA physical plant's budget included nearly $60,000 for two housekeepers to care for the property, and the UGA Police Department budgeted another $79,310 to pay three security guards, along with $996 to maintain an alarm system and $500 in other expenses.
The physical plant also logged nearly $80,000 in work orders for the house, including a $50,533 tab for painting the east side of the building.
Other expenses included $1,775.83 to replace a cracked mirror, $3,868 to regrout pavers and $365 to fix a broken toilet handle in a guard house.
In addition, groundskeepers and other workers visit the 5-acre estate periodically to perform routine chores such as tending the expansive back lawn and gardens, including the formal boxwood parterre at the front of the house.
While Adams doesn't sleep in the big house, he does entertain there, playing host to wealthy donors, new faculty members, his staff and other groups.
"I'd like to know how much money we've raised in that house in the last 13 years," Adams said.
Adams hosted 20 special events at the mansion in 2009, according to records released by the university.
The events included five pre-game receptions before UGA football games, a coffee for the University Woman's Club, a September reception for new UGA faculty members, a reception for the Osborne Film Festival and in December, a holiday luncheon for the president's staff.
He also hosted dinners for the Arch Foundation, the UGA Athletic Association, the UGA Research Foundation, arts and sciences faculty members and the spring commencement speaker.
Adams could move back in one day, he said.
"I've never said we wouldn't move back," he said. And future UGA presidents may choose to live there, he said.
Meanwhile, even the parties have stopped at the house while the mansion gets a $950,000 makeover.
About $250,000 of private money will pay for the renovation, along with $700,000 in state money, according to documents UGA officials submitted to the regents.
This month, an Athens contractor, Whitsel Construction Co., began work on the renovation. Over the next seven months, workers will modernize the kitchen, upgrade storage areas for fragile glass and china, install an elevator that will provide better access for people with disabilities, renovate the boiler room and replace an old furnace, and renovate a laundry room to make a restroom handicap accessible.
The building's smoke and fire detection systems also will get upgrades, Sniff said.
By maintaining the mansion, UGA also is preserving an historic building, administrators say.
Only a few pre-Civil War mansions remain of the dozens that once lined streets like Prince Avenue, housing Athens' elite.
The multi-acre lots of most of the old mansions have been subdivided over the years, making room for more houses on smaller lots. But the President's House remains on its original large grounds, said Scott Messer, a historic preservationist in the UGA Office of University Architects.
The President's House lot still stretches its full length, from Prince Avenue nearly to Boulevard.
The house is one of the state's best examples of Greek Revival architecture, preservationists say.
Its special features include two outbuildings now used for storage, centuries-old furniture and art as well as little architectural jewels like ornate plaster ceiling molding that looks as new as when the house was built in 1857-58 for prosperous railroad contractor John T. Grant, an 1833 UGA graduate.
"I feel a special responsibility to take care of that place," Adams said.
Amy Kissane, executive director of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, said she'd like to see the house included on one of the foundation's annual tours of historic Athens homes.
"We would love the opportunity to work with the university on that," Kissane said.