By ALISON THOET
According to information acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, $12,000 has been spent on furnishings and interior decoration since President Rick Hurley moved into the home in July 2010.
The FOIA request also showed that the highest priced furnishings in Hurley’s spending include over $2,000 spent on re-upholstering furniture and almost $6,000 on rugs.
“We’ve done everything from re-upholster couches in the sunroom, our main entertaining room, to purchasing rugs for the third floor,” said Hurley.
According to Hurley, the price of the rugs was so high because they were custom cut for the space on the third floor, which stretches from the front to the back of the house in an open area.
There was also a payment of $995 for the conservation of a painting called “Mother and Child” by Gari Melcher that has hung in Brompton’s dining room since before 1975, according to The Free-Lance Star.
According to Hurley, this painting, as well as the three other Melchers paintings in the home, are routinely checked for damage by Joanna Catron, curator of the Melchers museum. The “Mother and Child” painting recently had problems with the frame and was paid for through the Brompton budget for its conservation.
Brompton House has a separate budget that comes out of the comprehensive fee charged to students that also goes toward operating and maintaining the Fitness Center, Student Center, and other facilities on campus, according to Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance and CFO.
“I don’t think the school should be spending that much on anything while they are hiking up tuition and meal plan prices,” said Ellie Meyer, freshman biology major.
Brompton House itself was originally built in 1740 and served as a hospital thought the Civil War. It is a historic landmark on the National Historic register and still has bullet holes on the outside from the war, according to the UMW website. Serving originally as a farmhouse, Brompton’s barn is still on the site and its pastures were located on the site of what is currently the UMW Battlefield athletic complex.
The Commonwealth of Virginia purchased the home in 1947 and renovated for two years before it was used for the UMW President’s home, according to Hurley.
The home is protected by the government and as a historic landmark, there are regulations for furnishing the outside of the home but none when it comes to the inside, according to Hurley.
“You can do pretty much whatever you want on the inside, but you must recognize the history of the house and the emotions of the thousands of people who have gone through it,” said Hurley.
Hurley, his wife Rose Hurley and Susan Worrell, special assistant to the President and overseer of university events, attend to the furnishings and needs of Brompton House. The bills are sent though routine accounting and purchasing methods, according to Hurley.
“There are lots of events at Brompton and that is why we must keep it in pristine condition,” said Hurley.
According to Hurley, Brompton is a public house of museum quality and has a huge number of visitors every year. There were over 3,000 just last year.
“We do our best to make sure it always looks great, but we are certainly sensitive to the spending issue,” said Hurley.
Meyer believes the house should be made more available to students as the money for the budget comes out of a potion of student tuition.
“I’m not opposed to spending money to keep something that old looking nice, but Hurley shouldn’t spend all of the money so quickly,” said Meyer. “There is always time for improvements.”
Hurley said he does not plan for any more furnishings of Brompton House in the near future.
Spending on Brompton has been an issue in the past with UMW presidents. Most recently, President Judy Hample spend $28,000 on bookshelves, according to a previous article the Bullet published in Feb. 2010.
Hurley commentated on Hample’s previous expenditures, stating, “The controversy was whether it was the right time to be spending so much money when the budget was being cut by millions at the time.”