Neighbors urge UM: Don’t sell historic house

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

After scores of emails and a community meeting, several neighbors of a historic house at the University of Michigan made one last effort Thursday to get the Board of Regents to reconsider selling it.

Ann Arbor’s Inglis House, shown in 1947, is being considered for sale by the University of Michigan as it’s no longer used and extensive renovations are needed.

The two-story, 12,000-square-foot home, on 9.1 acres with a formal garden near Nichols Arboretum, is known as the Inglis House. It was donated in 1950 by the Inglis family to the university.

While numerous high-profile guests have been hosted by UM at the 1927 house — such as the Dalai Lama and former President Gerald Ford — the university closed Inglis House in 2012 since it was no longer used and extensive renovations were needed, school officials said.

Regents voted in December against renovating the house for $4.6 million and keeping it up with $530,000 in annual costs. Then in March, the regents voted to sell the house and endow the proceeds in the Inglis family’s honor to fund scholarships.

The two-story, 12,000-square-foot Inglis House sits on 9.1 acres with a formal garden near Nichols Arboretum. It was donated in 1950 by the Inglis family to the University of Michigan.

But neighbors say the house doesn’t have a historical designation, and they fear it will be torn down. They also said the university never sought any input from them. The residents have been sending emails to the regents, and a community meeting with UM officials was held last week.

Many of the neighbors, hoping to save the house from being sold, attended the regents’ meeting Thursday and held signs that said “Re-vote on the sale of the Inglis House.”

“You value profit over history, and tradition,” said Stephanie Crane, who grew up near the property. “This is history. This is tradition. It changes lives. It is great value. I am begging you to reconsider.”

Esther Kyte also spoke to the regents, reading a letter signed by several Inglis family members.

“We as a family unequivocally do not approve of the sale of the Inglis house,” Kyte said. “We are shocked the university would not move to protect the legacy of this gift.”

Even before the residents spoke, UM President Mark Schlissel explained why the decision was made to sell the house.

“After careful consideration of many options over multiple years, campus leaders determined there is no clear long-term use for the house that would justify the required funding for renovation and annual operating costs,” he said.

After residents spoke, Schlissel thanked them, then adjourned the meeting.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said she expected the vote to sell the house would stand.

Regent Mark Bernstein provided a letter outlining the gift agreement from Elizabeth Inglis written to previous regents on Oct. 10, 1950.

“It is my hope that the University will find use, enjoyment and benefit from the property,” said the letter. “There are no conditions or strings of any kind intended to be attached to my proposal to transfer the property now, rather than at the time of my death, and I should like to have it understood that the University will be entirely a free agent as its owner.”