Black Mountain College Project   

Architecture Section



Black Mountain and Asheville

Blue Ridge Campus

Lake Eden Campus

Guide to the Campuses
and Maps


of Architects

Architecture related publications

Section Outline


Lake Eden
Development of the Lake Eden Property by E.W. Grove
        Map showing location of buildings in 1937
        Buildings constructed by E.W. Grove Estate

Development of the Lake Eden Property by Black Mountain College
         Aerial Views
         Map showing buildings constructed by E.W. Grove Estate
            and by Black Mountain College
        Buildings constructed by Black Mountain College

Photograph: Trude Guermonprez Elsesser. Courtesy Lisa Jalowetz Aronson.

On June 14, 1937, as insurance against a sudden ouster from the Blue Ridge property, Black Mountain College purchased the Lake Eden property from the trustees of the E.W. Grove estate. The property was located two miles northwest of the village of Black Mountain which meant the college did not have to change its address.

The Lake Eden property consisted of approximately 674 acres plus the “Royal League Property” of 52 acres. The purchase price was $35,000 of which $17,500 was paid in cash, with the balance due in four equal installments of $4,375 on or before 2, 3, 4 and 5 years at 6% interest. The purchase was made possible by a gift of $12,500 by Stephen Forbes, a former student, and $800 of the $2,000 in underwriting which Edward and Ethel Dreier, parents of Theodore Dreier, pledged at the college’s founding and of which they made a gift.

The property had been developed in 1923-24 by E.W. Grove as a summer camp and inn. There were two lodges, a dining hall, and several cottages, all in a rustic mountain style. Until it moved to the site in 1941, the college operated the property as an inn  and as a faculty residence in the summers and cultivated the farmland throughout the year.

In 1939 Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer were commissioned to design a complex of modern buildings for the college. (Gropius-Breuer Plans) The model and plans were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in January 1940 and a fundraising campaign was begun. The faculty found, however, that in order to raise the requisite $500,000, it would have to assure donors of continuity of purpose and at least the probability of longevity. This would have required a restructuring of the college's organization to include a Board of Trustees and ultimately a more traditional curriculum. Fundraising was complicated both by the impending entry of the United States in the European conflict and by notification by Blue Ridge that it had another occupant and that the college had to move by June 1941.

In the summer of 1940 A. Lawrence Kocher, an American architect who had been editor of The Architectural Record and a proponent of modern architecture was hired to design simpler buildings which could be constructed by faculty and students. The building which he designed had four wings for administration, a library, student studies, faculty apartments, and socializing. (Kocher Plan)

Construction was begun in the fall of 1940 and over the next twelve months, the community constructed the Studies Building, one wing of the Kocher design; built a faculty cottage and a cottage for the kitchen staff; started work on a barn; and winterized all of the existing buildings. Although some construction -- primarily finished the buildings begun the previous year -- continued through the war, limitations on building materials and the loss of most of the men students who left to join the war effort prohibited any serious construction.

After the war Black Mountain hoped to resume its building program both because extra space was needed for the larger student body and because it hoped that a common task would unify the diverse group of new students and faculty all of who arrived with different ideas of what the college had been and should be. The Architects Collaborative was hired to design a dormitory for women, but when the plans were presented, students presented an alternative plan for small units combining sleeping and study space. There were community meetings and finally there was agreement on several small dorms with only sleeping space to be placed in designated "neighborhoods." By the time the architects had returned to the drawing board and produced new plans, the college had obtained surplus army barracks from the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to alleviate its postwar needs.

The architecture program as it evolved, though not ideal, provided a unique learning experience for members of the community as well as those architects who were commissioned to make designs for the campus. Dreams for a well-designed, coherent campus gave way to the reality of the college's financial situation and its unconventional structure. Democracy was not an efficient process. Conflicts, both external and internal, altered the college's plans. Yet, the program as it evolved, not only met the college's needs for housing and activities, but it captured the imagination of educators and architects throughout the United States who were in the process of creating new departments of architecture and transforming existing programs from the usual beaux-arts curriculum into ones relevant to the present time.

Death was a part of life in the community. A site in a rhodendron grove was selected for burial of those who died at the college. Grave markers for Max and Antonie 'Toni' Dehn and Heinrich and Johanna Jalowetz. Karen Karnes made tile makers for the graves. Permanent markers have recently been added. Photographs: Black Mountain College Project.



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.