You can't miss it. Pass by the Campus Drive construction site of the Duke University Museum of Art (see "Work of Art," p. 20), and you'll see a red-brick home close to the corner of Anderson Street. The stately manor stands out, and not for its colonial elegance. It's surrounded by orange dirt swaths, crusted bulldozers and other mongrels of construction. The house, with threatening orange and green fences to either side and a cleared forest at its back, looks violated. Drive by and you get the sense that if these walls could talk, they'd be screaming.
But all's not what it seems--there's Duke to thank for the construction storm enveloping the home, but it's also Duke that has ensured that the house and its sole occupant remain, unharmed and (for the most part) untouched by the expansion project. Eleanore Jantz, a doctor of philosophy in her early 90s, lives in the house, which is owned by Duke.
She is the widow of Harold Jantz, a beloved professor emeritus at Duke. The two came to the university from Johns Hopkins in 1976, and Harold brought with him his massive collection of German literature--now the Harold Jantz Collection of German Baroque Literature and German Americana, a nationally revered crown jewel at the Duke Special Collection Library. Duke rewarded Harold for his gift and stature.
"(The house) was part of his compensation when he relocated from Baltimore," says Tallman Trask, Duke's executive vice president. "The houses on Campus Drive, many of which have been converted, were all at one time faculty houses."
Though it might sound quaint and outdated, allowing such housing for esteemed faculty is still a part of Duke arrangements. And there's usually a provision for surviving spouses to stay on in the house, Trask says. Then, the house falls back into the hands of the university, to use for other faculty (or, as has often been the case, to convert into office space).
Harold Jantz passed away in 1987, and Eleanore has remained in the home for the last 16 years. Trask, who visits with Jantz frequently, calls her "an elegant academic and very, very nice woman." He says the school never allowed DUMA expansion plans to include the house or its space, and although the idea was floated, she was never approached about moving.
"A couple years ago, when it began to look like all this was going to happen, I spent a lot of time over there explaining to her the plans," Trask says. "We told the architect to do the best he could to respect the house."
And apart from construction of a new garage (to replace the one that fell to expansion) the house has been untouched. In fact, it may soon find residential company--Duke is considering turning other grand homes on Campus Drive back into actual houses. "We've found they don't make very good offices," Trask says.
Of the noise and nuisance in Eleanore's back yard, "I think it's been more disruptive than she thought it would be," Trask says. "It's loud, busy and dusty, and the orange 'No Trespassing' fence on three sides is as disruptive as it gets."
In spite of it all, the porch light's still on at the Jantz house, even if the sign in the driveway says "Road Closed."