By Rachel Dragos
It is often difficult to distinguish where the College ends and the Village of Gambier begins. A similar relationship exists in the home of Professor of Drama Wendy MacLeod ’81 and Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin ’84. Filled with art, photographs and student gifts, it is hard to disentwine the home from Kenyon and Kenyon from the home.
Baldwin and MacLeod met as students at Kenyon. The two never imagined that they would later return to Gambier, much less that they would raise two boys who would be Kenyon students as well — Avery Baldwin ’17 and Foss Baldwin ’15.
As MacLeod and Baldwin prepared for dinner one weekend, Baldwin recalled the confluence of events that led the two back to Gambier, beginning with a one-year position as a replacement for a professor on sabbatical for MacLeod in 1990.
“We were living in New York City at the time and thought we had just come out for one year,” Baldwin said. “[Later], they said, ‘Three years,’ and we said, ‘Three years, we would be okay with that.’ And then the year after that they said, ‘What if we were able to endow a chair for you, Wendy?’ … It was right around then that we decided we had better find a house.”
MacLeod and Baldwin found a small home fairly easily, located a few blocks east of where the Kenyon campus blurs with Gambier. “It was for sale around then for $49,000, which was a pretty good price even then in 1992,” Baldwin said. “So we bought the house and had two boys and realized very quickly that we didn’t have enough room for them.”
At this point, Baldwin decided that he would build his own addition. “My grandfather was an architect and I have always been interested in architecture and design, as well as painting,” he said.
For years, Baldwin’s job was building the multi-story addition to engulf the smaller home. “I was not teaching full time then,” he said. “I was building this house you see back here, full time. It got closed in after about a year, and then it took another five years to get it fully livable. And then another two years to get it fully finished.”
“Before, when this wall was roughed in,” Baldwin said, gesturing to the far wall of the house, “we had a trampoline out here. So all of that first year, [our sons] were just jumping on that trampoline. Eventually, it became the living room.”
MacLeod noted the New England architectural influences in her husband’s design. “We spend the summers living in New Hampshire, and it ended up looking like a New England house because I think Read always misses New England.”
Before beginning the addition, Baldwin had some construction experience but had never taken on a project of that scale. “It was really exciting,” Baldwin said. “I mean, the first three months were really exciting.”
Baldwin did all of the work himself, with some help from his a stonemason. “So 22 years after we bought the first part [of the home], here we are today,” Baldwin said.
Since completion of the home, Baldwin and MacLeod have taken their time with decorating their home. “Some people think that you build a house and then you go out and buy all the furniture and you stick it in,” Baldwin said. “I think Wendy and I have always had the approach of starting minimally and buying things as we went along.”
In addition to a variety of Baldwin’s own artwork, which includes paintings featuring Ohio and New England landscapes, a print series of endangered animals and a variety of contemporary art — the home also features art by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Craig Hill and photography by Associate Professor of Art Marcella Hackbardt.
“As professors, we can’t afford to buy that much art, so we make a lot of it.” Baldwin said. “We’ve incrementally added things as we’ve gone along, which I think … gives the place a sort of history, creates a sort of organic expression of interest in interior space and design.”
Baldwin and MacLeod have expressed a sincere interest in student art throughout the years. A gift from one of Baldwin’s former students hangs in the kitchen. In MacLeod’s upstairs office hangs a piece of student artwork that Baldwin found in the trash one day after his class and brought home. The painting, with a bright red background, features a lightly painted wheelbarrow. “I like it because it reminds me of the William Carlos Williams poem, ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’” MacLeod said.
“A lot of great student art goes to waste every year,” Baldwin said. “The Kenyon community should be buying more.”
Photographs join the student work on the walls. In the open dining room, MacLeod and Baldwin have adorned a cabinet with dozens of family pictures, over which one of Baldwin’s New Hampshire landscape paintings hangs. The dining room table is a find from Mount Vernon’s Second Time Around store.
MacLeod and Baldwin agreed that the central living room area, with its beautiful fireplace and open floor plan, is one of their favorite parts of the home. “This is probably where we spend the most amount of time,” MacLeod said. “If it were a chilly night, we would have the fireplace roaring right now,” Baldwin added.
Most Kenyon students live on the Hill for only four years, but these two professors have settled in and turned their house into a home.