Insider Look: DeFord Manor

After many months of watching DeFord Manor being constructed and wondering what it looked like inside, The Marlin Chronicle was invited to the residence for a private, face-to-face tour of the residence with President Scott Miller and his wife, Annie Miller.

Ross Winner|Marlin Chronicle
President Scott D. Miller and
his wife Annie meeting with the
Chronicle in DeFord Manor.

The manor was constructed as a private residence for the president and their family with large entertaining spaces both indoors and outdoors. 

DeFord Manor’s construction began in March of 2021, however the plans were drawn up in 2016 with the other campus improvements being planned at the time. Despite construction being completed in December of 2021, the manor was not officially opened until February due to the landscaping process and supply chain issues with furniture and appliances. 

The federal-style architecture was chosen in a non-conventional process. Derck & Edson, a planning and design company for college campuses, filled a wall with Post-it notes outlining twelve different designs and allowed the campus community to weigh in on the design. The architecture and surrounding land was then overseen by Michael Schnekser of Tymoff & Moss, in conjunction with other companies.

The manor itself is 7,771 square-feet. It is named after Bob and Nancy DeFord. Nancy DeFord replaced her husband on the Board of Trustees when he retired in 2016 and they have been “generous philanthropists” to the school for a long time, said President Miller.

Directly behind the manor is the Virginia Oveda Williams DeFord Terrace, named after Bob DeFord’s mother, who inspired his interest in education.

The terrace is home to a pool, garden and large tent for campus events. It is meant to hold about 150 people. The tent will be standing throughout the spring to give the option of hosting parties outdoors, even in unpredictable weather.

Behind the fence in the back is the David R. Black Japanese Garden with ten trees. Black was a university president for almost 30 years and was “the co-visionary of the Honors College when we founded it in 2017… but a donor provided money so there would be something in his honor,” Miller said.

Ross Winner|Marlin Chronicle
The David R. Black Terrace includes a pool and a temporary tent for events.

Around a circular driveway lined in hedges is the Shelhorse Lawn and Ponds, named for Bill Shelhorse, a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan in 1970 who served as a trustee on the board.

The building is an Elizabeth River Project River Star Home, meaning it agrees to seven initiatives, including not pouring grease in the sink, reducing fertilizers, not feeding geese and avoiding single-use plastic.

DeFord Manor boasts trees, shrubs and plants on the land. Underneath the property is nearly a mile of underground storm chambers. The permeable surface of the driveway surface controls runoff, prevents flooding and replenishes groundwater. Surface water is absorbed by the driveway and filtered by the soil below so that chemicals don’t contaminate the water in storm drain systems. 

Additionally, water from the pond is filtered and flows to the Chesapeake Bay.

Next year, the university hopes to create a new contract with Dominion Energy to add solar panels to the residence.

There are multiple spaces for entertaining guests at the residence. After passing a portrait of Bob and Nancy DeFord in the foyer, guests can be invited into the bright, formal living room. Sliding doors reveal a smaller, more intimate sitting room that can be closed off for convenience during catered events. 

A hallway surrounded by glass doors overlooking the terrace leads to the spacious East Room, used for dinners and cocktail parties, complete with a wall-mounted television screen and a Steinway piano that plays by itself. 

Just off the East Room is the terrace and windowed tent. Another door leads from the terrace to the entrance to the kitchen. With gleaming quartz countertops and sky blue cabinets, the kitchen is designed to accommodate a family or a catering team. 

Ross Winner|Marlin Chronicle
The kitchen is ideal for catering groups and the use of the residents.

Hallways just off the kitchen lead to a commercial ice maker, dish washer, refrigerator and wine cooler. Doors allow the kitchen area to be closed off for convenience and privacy.

Towards the front of the house is a dining room with paneled walls and a marble-encased fireplace to provide even more space for guests.

The ground floor and all its doorways are handicap accessible and level to allow all guests ease of movement.

The second floor is the private residence for the president and family. Besides a family room, it has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a laundry room, all with windows overlooking the lawn and campus. It is designed for privacy during university events and possible growing families who may one day move into the residence.

DeFord Manor was opened for the Batten Honors Competition on March 11. President Miller hosted the parents of the competitors for a reception while the students mingled at the Susan B. Goode Theater.

Ross Winner|Marlin Chronicle
The East Room is set up for a cocktail party and has the option of a full dinner.

The first all-campus event in DeFord Manor was the open house gathering for faculty and staff on March 16. Both events were hosted by President Miller and his wife Annie. Ideally an open house will be held once a month.

In the coming weeks and months, DeFord Manor will be used to welcome the Student Government Association Executive Board, the president’s Chat and Chew meetings, team dinners to recognize achievements of sports teams, business leaders in the community, legislative officials and congressional senators of the state, the Board of Trustees and the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

President  Miller expressed his enjoyment in bringing their grandchildren to the manor. It is a house built with the intention of housing growing families of all types.

His own children grew up in various presidents’ residences and the president and his wife look forward to making the home their own.

By Rhian Tramontana