The University of California Board of Regents has approved the second phase of rehabilitation of UC San Diego’s University House, which is to be renamed Audrey Geisel University House in honor of the longtime university supporter and widow of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.
The historic home’s large public meeting room is also to be rechristened the “Rik and Flo Henrikson Commons,” honoring support of the house renovation through the Rik and Flo Henrikson Endowment Fund.
Located on 7 acres in La Jolla Farms, Geisel House been closed since 2004 when it was deemed uninhabitable due to seismic and system deficiencies, including plumbing and electrical problems and the need for canyon edge slope stabilization.
The entire house renovation cost, estimated a $10.5 million, will be covered by gifts including $1.5 million from the UC Office of the President to complete the project from the Searles Fund, an endowment used to fund general purposes of the university which cannot be covered by state funds.
Noting the Geisel family has always been a friend and supporter of UCSD, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said, “Preserving the architectural treasure that is Geisel House is so important, and we are most grateful for her generosity, and her friendship.”
Geisel House is registered as a historic site at the local, state and national levels due its Pueblo Revival architecture. Built in 1952, the house was designed by noted Santa Fe-based architect William Lumpkins and purchased by the University of California system in 1967.
“University House has been as iconic to UC San Diego as the wonderfully eccentric library,” said Audrey Geisel. “I am so pleased that this uniquely designed historic home will once again be used as the chancellor’s residence and as an appropriate venue for campus events. I’m glad, too, that at long last the renovation will be moving forward. Ted would have been honored.”
Mrs. Geisel donated more than 8,000 of her late husband’s original drawings, sketches, books and other memorabilia to the university libraries. In 1995, the university’s library was renamed Geisel Library in honor of Theodor Geisel, following a $20 million gift from Audrey Geisel.
The naming of the Rik and Flo Henrikson Commons honors the $20 million the Henriksons bequeathed to the UC San Diego Foundation to fund an unrestricted endowment, the payout fromm which is to be used for urgent campus projects at the chancellor’s discretion.
The principal architect for Geisel House’s restoration is Ione R. Stiegler of IS Architecture, who specializes in historic preservation.
“The rehabilitation of Geisel House is a wonderful opportunity for the campus to celebrate UC San Diego’s heritage and the Native American cultural values of the site,” said Stiegler. “The project will encompass structural improvements and install 21st century amenities for the enjoyment of the chancellor and invited guests. For decades, this resource has served as an indispensable mainstay of the university’s community. With this renovation, it can continue to serve this purpose for future generations.”