Miller Center

The Miller Center’s Home: Historic Faulkner House

The Miller Center's home is Faulkner House, an 1856 antebellum mansion officially designated as a Virginia Historic Landmark. It was named in honor of American novelist William Faulkner, who did not live in the house, but taught as a Balch lecturer at the University of Virginia in the 1950s.


The Center is located on 19 acres of land—part of a 3,000-acre tract that King George II granted to David Lewis and Joel Terrell.

Addison Maupin, Builder

In 1854, Addison Maupin purchased the 41-acre tract of land where the Miller Center now stands. Maupin built the present brick mansion but occupied the house for less than a year before selling it and surrounding land to Gabriel B. Shields in 1857. Maupin and his family later moved to a large house on Carr's Hill, which he sold to the university in 1867.

Shields died shortly after acquiring Maupin's house, leaving the property to two unmarried sisters named Jurey. They lived in the house while it served as Union General Thomas Devin's temporary headquarters during the Civil War. On March 3, 1865, General George Armstrong Custer reached Charlottesville, whose citizens opted to cooperate with the Union army and surrendered the town to Custer. In return, the federal officers agreed to guarantee the protection of local property.

Senator Thomas S. Martin

Less than three years after the war, the Jurey family sold the house and the land for $9,000. The property passed through the hands of six owners over the next four decades. U.S. Senator Thomas S. Martin bought the property, reduced to 17 acres, for $12,000 in 1906 and named it "Montesano." At the time, Martin was one of the most powerful political figures in the state. Born in nearby Scottsville in 1842, he studied law at the University of Virginia during the 1860s and returned to Scottsville, where he built a strong reputation as a courtroom lawyer. In the 1880s, Martin became local counsel for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and in 1893 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, ultimately becoming both the leading figure in his party and the most prominent statesman in the Commonwealth.

Martin hired Washington, D.C. architect Waddy B. Wood to enlarge and remodel the main house. Wood specialized in neo-classical houses for the wealthy, designing some of the best residences in the exclusive neighborhoods of northwest Washington and numerous public buildings in the city as well as large country houses in Virginia and surrounding states. Martin added the wings on both ends of the house and the front entrance portico, preferring the house to face the highway to the south. The original front, now the back, faced the mountains to the north.

The Old Ivy Inn

The property had several owners after the senator's death in 1919, including engineer Frederick Humphreville Lewis; Louis Hanckel; Colonel and Mrs. Jennings Wise; and William A. Bondurant. In 1946 the property was purchased by Noble T. MacFarlane, who converted it into a public hostelry named the Old Ivy Inn. With the addition of four small cottages – known respectively as the Orchard House, the Hedge House, the Farm House, and the Cottage – the inn could accommodate more than fifty guests at a time. During nearly two decades of business, the Old Ivy Inn earned a wide reputation for good food and Southern-style hospitality.

The Miller Center

In 1963, the University of Virginia purchased the mansion, 19 acres of land and five outbuildings—for $180,000. The University renamed the house in honor of William Faulkner, the University's former writer-in-residence, and used the main dwelling as a guest house and dining facility for faculty, staff, and visitors to the university. Three years later, it was renovated as office space for the Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

In 1975, Faulkner House became the home to the White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs. The Center's mission is to serve as a "national meeting place where engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives, and government officials gather in a spirit of nonpartisan consensus to research, reflect, and report on issues of national importance to the governance of the United States, with special attention to the central role and history of the presidency."

The J. Wilson Newman Pavilion

From 1975 to 1985, the Miller Center developed a reputation for hosting interesting weekly forums that became increasingly popular with the general public. In 1986, Director Kenneth Thompson announced plans to add a west wing to the Miller Center to accommodate the large audiences attending the Forums.

The center initiated a building campaign in 1986 with a major challenge grant of $500,000 from J. Wilson Newman, then chairman of the Miller Center's national associates and former chairman and chief executive officer of Dun & Bradstreet.

Architect Allen Greenberg's design for the new addition matched the classical style and brick vocabulary of the landmark 1856 mansion. A fenestrated passageway provides a seamless connection between the new and old buildings.

One of the most appreciated enhancements was a new sound system in the Forum room and adjacent spaces, including improved accommodations for larger audiences. The Pavilion provides comfortable seating for up to 125 in the Forum Room, which Greenberg modeled after the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, Virginia. The open design of the room encourages those attending forums to participate in the sessions; the room is also well suited for more intimate roundtable discussions. The Pavilion also houses a seminar room, audio-visual facilities, a conference room, and a reception area suitable for special events.

The J. Wilson Newman Pavilion was opened and dedicated during a ceremony held on March 25, 1991.

The Kenneth W. Thompson Pavilion

The Kenneth Thompson East Wing and Renovation Project began in late October 2000 and was completed in September 2001. The Thompson East Wing houses the beautiful two-story Scripps Library and Multimedia Archive, and conference and office space for scholars and staff. The project also included an extensive renovation of the 1856 mansion.

Geier, Brown, Renfrow Architects designed an addition to remain in the Jeffersonian style of the rest of the house. Two of the most familiar Jeffersonian influences can be seen in the George C. Palmer reading room. Jefferson had a strong proclivity for the octagon and the Palmer reading room reflects this with its demi-octagonal shape. The dome that crowns the reading room is also reflective of Jefferson's architectural style by referencing the great Rotunda at the physical and spiritual center of the university.

On September 23, 2003 the Miller Center dedicated the Center's new Kenneth W. Thompson Pavilion and Scripps Library and renovation project. Thompson served as director of the Miller Center (1978–1998), and was responsible for organizing eight national commissions, directing the Forum program, and editing the Miller Center series on American presidential history.

President Jimmy Carter, Virginia Governor Mark Warner, and University Provost Gene Block spoke at the ceremony, and Presidents George W. Bush, Gerald R. Ford, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton offered pre-recorded messages about the Center's contribution to the nonpartisan preservation of American presidential history.

The expansion of the Faulkner house throughout the years has allowed the Miller Center to continue developing new and exciting programs that fulfill the Center's mission of research, education and public discourse.