- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2009

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. | The house Paul and Rosemary Trible live in has not yet been featured in the pages of Architectural Digest or Southern Living, but photographs of its great room, terrace, curving staircase, dining room and library have been posted on Facebook and MySpace.

The rooms can be seen as backdrops in pictures of Christopher Newport University students who have visited the president’s new residence, known as Three Oaks.

The Tribles moved into the 6,985 square-foot Georgian style waterfront home on Riverside Drive last spring, just weeks before graduation. They christened the house’s public spaces with nine events, including receptions for the graduates.

“The students walked in the door and I said, this is your house,” Mrs. Trible said, sitting in the reception hall she calls the great room. “It’s for the students.”

“Our job is to fill it with students, faculty and staff,” added Mr. Trible, who was appointed university president in 1996.

They also plan to fill it with dignitaries, guest lecturers, local business and community leaders, and potential donors.

The two say the $2.4 million house is their home, but is owned by the university and was designed and built for future CNU presidents and their families.

Mrs. Trible said thinking in those terms was a challenge. They worked with designer Greg Battaglia to make sure there were enough bedrooms for families with children, and that the main living spaces were accessible for someone with disabilities.

The house is reminiscent of the grand plantation homes that once lined the James River, with symmetrical wings, rows of six-over-six windows, columns, white trim and slender chimneys for four fireplaces. It has 14 rooms, including five bedrooms. It is built of the same “CNU brick and mortar” as the other new buildings on campus, and mimics their style, though on a residential scale, she said.

Most of the rooms on the first floor were designed and decorated for entertainment and business functions, such as receptions and dinners.

The entry hall flows directly into the main reception room with its twin fireplaces and view of the river. The formal dining room is to the right of the entrance hall, while a small book-lined library is on the left. The library has been used for buffet lines and dinners, too, Mrs. Trible said. The furniture in most of the public rooms can be moved around to accommodate dinners, receptions, impromptu performances - even weddings.

Several students have asked if they could hold their weddings at the house, she said, in part so the brides can use the curving central staircase for tossing their bouquets to waiting friends below.

Many of the furnishings in the reception room and the formal dining room will remain with the house after the Tribles leave. Mrs. Trible said she wanted to make sure the next president was not left starting from scratch.

The glass doors of the reception room open onto brick terraces and a lawn that sharply slopes to the water’s edge. The outdoor space also was landscaped with functions in mind. The lower terrace is the same size as one of the university’s tents, so it can be covered for outdoor dining or receptions in cooler weather.

Mrs. Trible is adamant the house does not belong to the president.

“It’s for the students,” she said.

Her husband agreed. “We live above the shop,” he said.

The couple actually lives on the same floor as the shop, using the first-floor bedroom, small family room and breakfast room as their personal quarters. They share the house with two friendly and well-behaved golden retrievers, Mollie and Bella.

Most of the visitors so far have been students. They have entertained all of the incoming freshmen, shuttling them to the house in CNU vans for a series of dinners. They’ve also held two wedding showers for students and a series of events for faculty and staff. Dinners at the president’s house have become favorite events for the students, “especially the fancy desserts,” Mrs. Trible said.

The two favorite desserts? Peanut butter pie and Heath bar crunch. Word of those treats already has circulated among the students.

The reception room, with its fireplaces, overstuffed chairs, family photographs and Mr. Trible’s grandfather clock, is Mrs. Trible’s favorite room in the house.

“I’ve always wanted to have a great room where you could have community, a space that is warm and still elegant to represent the university well,” Mrs. Trible said. The couple celebrated her 60th birthday with a party in that room soon after moving in.

“That sets this room forever as being very tender to me,” she said.

She also has a soft spot for the main hall, where students line up to give her a hug on their way out the door. The students are why they are there, she said. “We love the students. They are our heart.”

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