By Robert Lucke
Anyone driving past the MSU-Northern chancellor's residence next to Hill County Cemetery these days has probably noted that it is only half a house at best. The bedroom and garage wing running west of the living area of the house has been removed completely.
The house, being built on one of Havre's sandy hills, has had settling problems for a number of years and last year a massive water leak sent that wing of the house sloughing into the ground.
State architects are working on the problems connected with the house and Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville said that work should start very soon now to rework that wing.
"We have torn the old wing down," Capdeville said. "And very soon now we will be getting bids on redoing that part of the house."
Even that process is not without problems, Capdeville said.
"Insurance will pay to restore the house exactly the way it was, but pilings need to be put in to make sure the house stays the way it should," Capdeville said. "My argument is that it makes little sense not to include the pilings, although that would be a $40,000 modification that the insurance may not cover."
The new wing would be a slightly different configuration than the old wing, which included a double car garage, four bedrooms and two baths on the main floor and two small bedrooms on the second floor.
Capdeville said that the new configuration would include a larger master bedroom, master bath and closet on one side of the house, along with two more bedrooms on the other side. The two second floor bedrooms would stay the same. There is some talk of making the garage a three stall unit rather than two.
"There are other issues about the house, too," Capdeville stated. "The house is dated in the front part, as well. The windows are old, the kitchen is out of the '50s and really, it just needs a major renovation."
So, what will happen to the house once the west wing is completed is still up in the air.
"We don't know yet whether we fix it up and live in it or whether we fix it up and sell it," Capdeville said. "I do know that having a nice home like that one will help bring in good people in the future."
The house was completed in 1952 by Havre Dr. George Jestrab. It has been only the second house provided by the state of Montana for college presidents and chancellors to live in since 1947. It was purchased from Mrs. George Jestrab as the Northern president's house in 1976.