College President and his Wife Fight to Save a Historic Montrose Mansion: Once the Most Expensive House in Houston, this Landmark Now Needs HelpBY Anne Lee Phillips // 06.16.17
The foyer of the Link-Lee Mansion in 1947 when the school opened
Library in Link-Lee Mansion 1948
The Link Family on the lawn of the mansion
Rendering of the Gensler-designer renovated dining room in the Link-Lee Mansion
Rendering of the new Gensler-designed president's quarters in the Link-Lee Mansion
The Link-Lee Mansion
University of St. Thomas president Dr. Robert Ivany and his wife, Marianne, are fighting to restore and preserve a home in which they will never live. Said home, referred to as the Link-Lee Mansion, is a Neoclassical-style mansion on the corner of Montrose Boulevard and West Alabama, built in 1912 by J.W. Link (who founded the Montrose neighborhood the year prior), designed by architectural firm Sanguinet, Staats, and Barnes.
It is a large house, nearly 10,000 square feet, built for entertaining in the days before country clubs ruled, and constructed of limestone from Carthage, Missouri; cream brick; and enameled terra cotta, with gray glazed tiles and a green-glazed tile roof. The living room on the first floor is 40 by 20 feet, with English high wood wainscoting, wood beam ceilings, and fireplaces crafted of English Caen stone. The third floor contained a ballroom for the Link sisters’ dances.
Link sold the home to oilman T.P. Lee in 1916 for $90,000 — the highest price ever paid for a home in Houston at that time. It remained a family home until 1947, when it was sold to University of St. Thomas and served as the nucleus of the school, the family home of the university, says Marianne Ivany. Although her husband is retiring, Ivany has made it her mission in the past few years to save the property, whose exterior is in jeopardy due to water damage and other expensive issues faced by 104-year-old homes.
In recent decades, the Link-Lee mansion had been converted into administrative office space — Ivany has slowly been overseeing the removal of files and desks to convert the first floor, which is in remarkably excellent condition, into an event space for school functions. The ultimate goal, beyond the essential repairs, is to restore the home — which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Texas Historic Landmark — to its original grandeur and convert the upper floor into the home for the president’s family.
Ivany tapped architectural firm Gensler to execute the project — and who better than lead architect Barry Moore, whose work in the restoration of the Julia Ideson Library downtown has been widely celebrated as a Houston preservation success story, with an award from the International Interior Design Association/American Library Association. A capital campaign for the project is underway — Ivany and Moore estimate the undertaking will require about $10 million.