By: Wynn McDonald and Katelyn Norris
Bellarmine University’s historic President’s Mansion has officially passed into new hands, but it hasn’t left the BU family.
The 6.5-acre estate in Glenview was the home of former president Dr. Joseph McGowan for nearly 20 years, from the time it was donated to the school in 1997 until McGowan’s death in 2016. It was put up for sale in April 2017, with an initial listing price of $2.75 million.
For Jason Black, the opportunity was too perfect to pass up.
Black is the organizer of Man Holdings LLC, the private investment firm that purchased the mansion in June for approximately $2 million. He and his wife, Gretchen, are also both proud 1997 graduates of Bellarmine University. The couple have maintained strong ties to the Bellarmine community, attending athletics events and visiting their oldest son, Austin, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy from the school.
This connection fostered a close relationship with McGowan, whom they got to know during their time in school, and stayed in touch with through Jason’s participation in the annual Bellarmine Classic golf scramble.
“He was one heck of a guy,” Gretchen said. “[His death] was devastating.”
Jason, a builder by trade, and Gretchen, a designer, have lived in 13 different homes—most of which they built themselves—while raising three boys. Their journey to purchasing No. 14 was not a simple one. It began when their middle son, Noah, urged the family to move one more time before he left for college.
“We’ve always been ‘new-home people,’” said Jason, chuckling as he told the story. “[Noah] presented this property to us, and he and I came and looked at it first, and we were both like ‘oh my gosh, we love it! Mom’s never gonna move….’”
However, before long the whole family was on board. Jason began to negotiate with Bellarmine and put in an offer, but he was out-bid and someone else purchased the mansion.
“I felt like somebody had stabbed me in chest when that happened,” he said.
But during a vacation, Jason received a call from his real estate agent informing him that the previous deal on the property failed. He immediately put in another offer, and the house was theirs.
According to its official online listing, the 7,800-square-foot mansion—referred to as The Edgewood—was built in 1851 and contains seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Located at 3605 Glenview Ave., Kentucky Select Properties’ website describes it as featuring “a fabulous combination of timeless details combined with modern-day updates.”
The property was put on the market after Bellarmine President Dr. Susan Donovan chose to buy a house with her husband near campus, rather than live in the Glenview estate across town.
“We are thrilled that the house was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Jason Black. They appreciate the elegant home and property,” said Donovan in an email message.
The Blacks have many plans for their new house. They hope to highlight the history of the 160-year-old estate, which has been home to many influential Louisvillians, and reportedly even once hosted the Queen of England. Local heart surgeon Dr. Alan Lansing and his wife donated the home to Bellarmine, and it frequently hosted parties and university-sponsored events throughout McGowan’s occupancy.
“We love hearing from so many people who’ve already been here, and we can’t wait for them to come back and see what we’ve done to transform it and make it our own,” Gretchen said.
One of those people is John Spugnardi, Bellarmine’s sports information director and a long-time school employee who coached Jason on the golf team when he was in school.
“I’m just happy that it’s staying in the Bellarmine family,” Spugnardi said of the house. “Jason and Gretchen are good Bellarmine folks, and I’m sure they’ll make it a showplace.”
The Blacks have already begun renovations and have plans to move in as soon as next month. The building-savvy couple have been documenting the process on their YouTube channel, titled “Building a Better South.”
In the meantime, they’re looking forward to planting the Bellarmine flag in the front yard and carrying on McGowan’s legacy.
“I feel like, for some reason, we were meant to have this house,” Jason said.