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(25) THE EYE or THE I

Left:     Last Chance. Photograph courtesy Mim Sihvonen.
Right:  The I (or The Eye). Photographer: Felix Krowinski.
           © Black Mountain College Project.
           Library with Community House (previous library) on ridge and
           Studies Building to the right. Photographer: Paul Leser.

FHA Buildings Today

The arrival of GIs beginning in the fall of 1945 presented a housing crisis for the college. Not only had the student body grown to between 80 and 100 students, but for the first time in the college’s history there were a number of married students for whom the lodges did not provide adequate accommodations.

Theodore Rondthaler, a native Carolinian who taught history, turned to the “alphabetical agencies” — the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Public Works Agency — for help. In the post war years, the military was deconstructing barracks on military bases and making them available to institutions such as colleges and universities.

The first four FHA buildings were from the army air base at Maxton, North Carolina. They were approved in the spring of 1946 and were supposed to be ready for occupancy by September 1. When they did not arrive for the fall semester, the ninety students had to squeeze into space for seventy. Rooms were rented from a neighbor, Mrs. Arthur Patton, for housing, and some students shared studies.

Materials began arriving in October, and the buildings, constructed by Robert Holden, a local contractor, and by students, were ready by the end of 1946.

The seemingly simple solution was not without problems, as noted by Holden. The college had to provide excavation, foundation work, sewage, water and electricity. Apparently ,t also had to provide roofing, and materials were in short supply in the postwar period. The only brick available was “imitation brick” — unattractive and not in keeping with the college architecture —, and there was difficulty in obtaining skilled labor (the college had an endless supply of eager and willing unskilled workers).

Of the first four buildings, two – Last Chance and Next-to-the-Last Chance – provided three apartments each with a living room, a bedroom, a kitchenette and a bath for married students and faculty. They were located on the hill above New Cottage (also referred to as the Mac Wood Cottage). Among those to live in Last Chance were Tasker and Lorna Blaine Howard, Rags and Peggy Tolk Watkins, and Francis and Ann Dunn Foster. Oli and Joan Couch Sihvonen and their daughter Kimrey lived in Next-to-the-Last Chance. The other two buildings provided classrooms and student studies. The Eye (also referred to as The “I”) was located at the bottom of the slope just north of the Studies Building and was used for art classes, student studies, and storage. Deep South was located just south of South Lodge and was used as a men's dorm.

In the spring of 1947 the Public Works Agency provided three additional buildings. The Stable located north of The Eye, was used for studies. The library building was placed along the lake, south of the Studies Building. The third was placed in in the pine grove south of South Lodge and was used for storage. The contractor for the second group was Mr. Claery of J.A. Jones Company of Charlotte.

The college considered the buildings to be a temporary solution to the immediate housing shortage. Concurrent with the erection of the FHA buildings, fundraising was underway for a girl’s dormitory designed by the Architects Collaborative.

By law, the 20 by 100 foot buildings had to be deconstructed and “reduce[d] to nothing larger than ‘flat panels’” in two years. This, in fact, was never done at Black Mountain, and the buildings were used by the college until it closed and later by Camp Rockmont.

2007: Last Chance, Next to the Last Chance, The Stables, The Eye, and the library have been demolished. Deep South and the storage facility have been divided into three separate buildings and are still in use by Camp Rockmont.


  Left:           Constructing The Eye. Photograph courtesy Black Mountain
                    College Project. Gift of Lorna Blaine Halper.
  Lower left:  Jerry Levi's Study. North Carolina State Archives, Black
                     Mountain College Research Project Papers. Photographer:
                     Jerry Levy.
  Lower right: Felix Krowinski's Study, © Black Mountain College Project.
                     Gift of Felix Krowinski.


The Black Mountain College Project gratefully acknowledges a grant from the Graham Foundation
for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts for a study of architecture at Black Mountain College.