President-elect Peter Salovey just cannot stay away from Hillhouse Avenue.
Salovey arrived on the lush hill as a graduate student in psychology in 1981, receiving his Ph.D. from the department at 2 Hillhouse Ave. in 1986. He continued to teach in the Psychology Department, with an office in its building until 2003, when he then took on the first of his two deanships. Five years later, he relocated to the Provost’s Office on the other side of the street at 1 Hillhouse Ave. And now, when it looked like he would finally leave the locale and move his office to Woodbridge Hall, Salovey and his wife Marta Moret SPH ’84 have decided to live in the President’s House at 43 Hillhouse Ave. during Salovey’s tenure at the helm of the University.
“We just thought it would be fun and convenient,” Salovey said. “People seem excited when we tell them. I’m not quite sure why. There’s a certain way in which people are charmed when you tell them you’re going to live on campus.”
The house, which was constructed in 1871, is more than just charming — the red-brick, three-story mansion has 28 rooms and boasts walls covered in paintings from the Yale University Art Gallery. It has mostly been used as a venue for receptions and meetings in recent years, and has not been truly occupied by a University president since Bartlett Giamatti moved out in 1986.
Salovey said he has been thinking about the move since the announcement of his presidency in November and that he and Moret have not yet heard from the University about when they can relocate. The couple will keep their East Rock home, from which Moret operates a consulting firm.
University President Richard Levin, who has lived with his wife, lecturer Jane Levin, in their East Rock home during his tenure, said Salovey’s second house will provide Salovey and Moret the option to escape from the fast-paced life of the presidency.
In addition to occupying the home, Salovey said he will continue to use the house for official and ceremonial purposes, such as hosting large parties and alumni receptions in the high-ceilinged living and dining rooms off the foyer or housing guests of the University overnight in one of the plush upstairs guest rooms.
Behind the house lies a spacious backyard, in which Salovey said Moret, a master gardener certified by the State of Connecticut, is excited to start planting.
“While the Yale landscape team takes care of the grounds there,” Salovey said, “I suspect they won’t mind a little help from Marta.”
But Moret called the garden both “beautiful and stately” and said she does not want to change anything about the residence.
“I would not disturb such awesome serenity,” she added in a Wednesday email to the News.
Though the Levins have not lived in the house full-time, they have certainly kept it in regular use — Richard Levin said he estimates that he and Jane Levin have hosted over 150 events there per year.
Richard Levin said they chose to keep their original home to avoid uprooting their four children, the youngest of whom was in elementary school when Levin was named president in 1993, because they had friends in the neighborhood. Since that home is merely minutes away from campus, he added, they never felt disconnected from Yale life.
Both have been public about how happy they are with their decision. At a Feb. 14 panel, Jane Levin said she did not want her children to look back on their childhoods and think that “those were the glory days when we lived in a 28-room house with our own Renoirs.”
Richard Levin agreed with her, adding that though they love the house, it is a public space and “really not cozy.”
Living in the Hillhouse residence was expected of Yale presidents until 1986, when President Benno Schmidt chose to live primarily in New York and use the president’s house for overnights on campus.
That choice did not go over well with members of the Yale community who criticized Schmidt for being disconnected from the Yale community, said Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61.
President Charles Seymour first moved into the house in 1937, after Henry Farnam bequeathed the building to Yale upon his death in 1883.