In this section, we trace the establishment and development of Pine Hill Village through correspondence and other administrative documents housed in the Carleton College Archives. We specifically focus on how our veteran’s village came to be, including the various financial, bureaucratic, and material challenges faced by the college in its planning and construction. We give particular emphasis to the correspondence between the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA) and the college, tracing the development of their shared relationship as well as its inevitable deterioration as Carleton’s plans began to face considerable roadblocks. Scans of the archival material we used in our investigation are available here and at the bottom of the page under the references header. All parenthetical citations in this section reference the page number of the file.
Carleton Housing At the War’s End
Carleton’s enrollment pattern did not escape the nationwide effects of wartime. Whereas before the war Carleton’s gender ratio leaned towards men, widespread enrollment of college-age men during the war forced Carleton to increasingly open up its facilities to women. By the beginning of the 1945-1946 academic year, Carleton’s student body was comprised of 684 women and 82 men (1). The end of the war, however, meant a surge of eligible male students returning. There were, arguably unlike today, strong incentives for Carleton to enroll veterans, among them GI bill benefits for the school, able and mature students, and recognition from the community as a charitable and “patriotic” institution (27-29). However, numerous obstacles stood in the way of Carleton collecting said benefits, among them being a severe lack of housing and their policy of disallowing married couples from living on campus.
The Inception of Pine Hill Village
To address these obstacles, the Carleton administration began planning for the coming influx of veteran students even before the war’s end (27-29). It should be noted that Carleton’s housing structure was significantly different from its present form as a residential college. While all female students were required to live in on-campus dormitories, a great number of male students lived in off-campus boarding houses and large college-owned houses (2). Bruce Pollock, the college’s treasurer for the full term of Pine Hill Village’s existence, initially wanted to continue these norms, contacting Northfield landlords and absent Northfield property owners about the possibility of additional vacancies that could be occupied by returning veterans (7). He additionally reached out to the Northfield Methodist Church about the possibility of acquiring a large house owned by the church to ease the housing shortage, resulting in the purchase of Parish House which is owned by the college to this day (29). Lastly, modifications were made to Carleton’s sports stadium to house single male veterans under the bleachers, providing room for 30 students (7).
While some of these efforts yielded additional space for about 55 students (8), it was both insufficient to house all returning students and did not provide housing for enrolled married couples — a category that included many returning veterans (2,19). After conceiving a plan to house married veterans in temporary housing units on Carleton’s campus, Pollock officially applied for federal monetary aid through the Federal Public Housing Administration (FPHA)¹ on December 20, 1945 (7). These funds were made available on the basis of Title V of The Community Facilities Act of 1940 (colloquially known and described in Pollock’s correspondence as the “Lanham Act”) (5). Despite the availability of the money and signs of increased funding to this effect under the Truman administration, Pollock revealed his pessimism about receiving federal aid in a letter to Carleton’s executive committee, stating that “no high hope is held for assistance from this source” (8).
While Pollock’s fear of receiving no aid did not come to pass, one could argue he was more than justified in his rather stance toward the FPHA. In one of the earliest letters he received from the agency’s regional director, it is revealed that the agency was acutely aware of the coming shortage of building materials, but nonetheless put the onus on aid applicants to locate for themselves federally-owned surplus material and units in their vicinity (5). Carleton administrators were successful in locating prefabricated units that were used at a prison facility in Algona, Iowa; the four barracks arrived at Carleton by summer of 1946, but were not fit for use by college students and required refurbishing (17, 31). The initial plan was to convert each unit into three, two-bedroom apartments. Yet the difficulty of acquiring enough material to refit prison barracks into suitable college apartments ultimately proved inhibitive. No lumber yard was willing or able to provide the nearly 41,000 square feet of lumber required for the project, nor the approximately 5000 square feet of insulation (31). Thus, for the 1946-1947 school year, the four Iowan units remained unused. Carleton’s then-president Lawrence Gould also received a letter about the possibility of cheaply acquiring Quonset huts from an acquaintance of undetermined relationship, Lieutenant Commander Leonard Wilson of the U.S. Naval Reserve, who was working at the Department of State (14). This plan failed when the cost of modifying the huts for student habitation (and Minnesota winters) proved too costly for Carleton as a result of price increases and building material shortages in the post-war housing boom (20). Ultimately, the college was forced to settle for seventeen steel units granted by the FPHA. However, due to the previously mentioned delays, it became impossible to finish the units in time for veteran enrollment for the fall term of 1946 (32).
Maintaining Pine Hill Village
Conflict between Carleton’s administration and the FPHA continued to heighten over the FPHA’s consistent building delays, flawed bureaucratic management, and unsuitable amenities. Tensions rose between the federal government and the college after Carleton requested an exemption from an FPHA provision mandating that project management open two new bank accounts for efficient fiscal management (33-36). The college, still without finished units, recognizing the impracticality of opening new accounts, asked in November of 1946 that the provision be waived (33). The FPHA was, however, unwilling to budge, giving few concessions to the college despite their delays. Though residents were expected to be able to move into the new apartments sometime around December of 1946, this did not prove doable. The project was ultimately completed toward the end of February in 1947, with residents expected to move in within the following year (38). This places the termination of the project approximately six months behind schedule. The delays experienced by the college were said to have caused “considerable embarrassment” thereto; the college was rather direct in blaming the FPHA for the less-than-satisfactory completion time, though the FPHA did state that the lengthy wait-time was not caused specifically by some acrimony toward Carleton on the part of the agency, but rather was simply standard-practice (33). Carleton’s legal counsel did acknowledge in a January 1947 letter that the FPHA loan process was “damn slow” and that the “further away [the college] stays from… government agencies, the better;” yet the college had already made a deal they couldn’t quite back out of (43).
Carleton eventually developed a hostility toward the FPHA, showing little willingness to give any concessions thereto given their mistreatment by the federal authority. When the mattresses provided by the FPHA weren’t suitable for sleeping on, the college immediately put forward a complaint, unsatisfied by the meager provisions (44). The college even went so far as to request the return of 20 cents accidentally overpaid to the FPHA, who in response requested documentation proving that the small sum had, in fact, been wrongly given to the agency (48-49). The fact that the two institutions would squabble over what amounts to approximately 2 US Dollars in modern currency demonstrates the level of tension that had developed between the college and the federal authority; that such a small amount would require heated correspondence shows that the college, as well as the FPHA, had grown spiteful of the FPHA and its flawed bureaucracy. By 1948, the housing units had been turned over to the college, finally ending the painfully slow process that had aggravated both the college and the public authority.
The development and completion of Pine Hill Village, thus, were consistently marked by contention and difficulty, plagued by administrative, financial, and bureaucratic challenges that ultimately delayed its construction and completion by months. Yet the project was inevitably completed, finally providing adequate housing for married veterans and their families for nearly a decade. Though the time between its conceptualization and its completion was rather rocky, Pine Hill Village was home for dozens of students and their families in the post-war era and, moreover, filled an important gap in Carleton’s residential program.
Carleton College Archives, Northfield MN, Series 1: Governmental Sub-Series 6: Administrative affairs Folder 025.16d*.1: Veteran’s Housing: (Pine Hill Village”) Folder 1, 1945-1946
Carleton College Archives, Northfield MN Series 1: Governmental Sub-Series 6: Administrative affairs Folder 025.16d*.2: Veteran’s Housing: (Pine Hill Village”) Folder 2, 1946-1947
For a file containing scans of all documents referenced in this section, click here.
1. The FPHA does not exist today due to agency restructuring in the 1950s and 60s that dissolved or integrated many New Deal-era agencies. Today the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its subsidiary agencies handle the FPHA’s duties.
Credits – Jack Coyne and Zayn Saifullah