Pine Hill Village, Veteran’s Housing

By Aldo Polanco ’23

In 1945, when World War II had reached its conclusion, millions of men returned to the country. Many of them were college-aged, or had spent their college years in the service. As part of the reconstruction of society post-war, the United States government passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply the G.I. Bill. The piece of legislation brought many benefits to veterans, among them a yearly credit for college tuition fees. This led to many veterans taking advantage of the benefit and going to college on the federal government’s dollar. At this point, colleges across the country had a lack of students enrolled and were suddenly faced with a massive influx of people. The newly-integrated students included married couples, some already with children. This led to a nationwide housing crisis, especially on college campuses. Dormitory living was not suitable for a family of two or three people. Carleton was no exception to this issue. The process which led to the creation of veteran-exclusive housing, Pine Hill Village, was one marked by bureaucracy and economic troubles. 

Carleton, founded as a co-educational institution, had a population of almost exclusively women by the war’s end. In 1945, 684 women were enrolled versus only 82 men taking classes. With the G.I. Bill came both benefits for students and for the college, both incentivizing the enrolling of veterans at higher educational institutions. Also arriving with the G.I. Bill were a high number of students that had never been enrolled at Carleton. The facilities on campus were insufficient to house all current students plus the mass intake of young men. Carleton’s initial plan relied on already existing residences around Northfield to house these new students. This yielded some space, but was simply not enough to house the expected veteran population. Additionally, what we currently know as Parish House was owned by the Northfield Methodist Church. Carleton administration reached out in 1946 in order to lease or purchase the house. This effort would not prove fruitful, however, as the building was only acquired by the college twenty years later. Administration also built barrack-like facilities in the school’s stadium to house 28 to 30 single veterans. 

At this point, the question still remained of where to house married veterans. College administration had already applied for economic assistance to the Federal Public Housing Administration (FPHA). The federal government had passed the Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act, also known as the Lanham Act, in 1940, which facilitated and funded construction of defense housing. The FPHA, however, had not replied to the college yet, forcing administration to find other options. Another initial January 1946 proposal from the College’s treasurer Bruce Pollock presented to trustees was to construct temporary housing on campus. Some trustees were in favor while others found the estimates too expensive. At this point, the FPHA approved ten temporary family housing units for Carleton with a possibility for more. However, there was an additional issue of a shortage of building materials. Everywhere around the country, housing was being rapidly constructed to accommodate all of the veterans. As such, Carleton looked into prefabricated units, with varying degrees of success.

The FPHA alerted Carleton that four army barracks, each with three apartments, could be transferred to Northfield from Iowa. The barracks arrived in the spring, but could not be used for living and required refurbishment. With the lack of materials available, however, the entire structure was unsuitable for living and went unused. A significant amount of lumber was required, but they could not find it in one place, let alone a combination of places. 

At the same time, the administration received a letter from Leonard Wilson of the U.S. Naval Reserve. In it, Wilson wrote to President Gould about a possibility of acquiring quonset huts for the college. Pollock then replied, letting Wilson know that they had secured funding from the FPHA for ten homes, but that their needs were about four times what they had been approved for. He stated that they had looked into the possibility of quonset huts when the University of Minnesota gave up in finding them in the region, but that should he be able to procure them the college would be interested. Yale and Bowdoin had done a similar contract with Wilson’s contact, but with a total base cost of $75,000 and the additional costs of modifying the structures for the cold and student habitation, the project became too expensive for Carleton. By May of 1946 the college was approved for an additional 33 family units by the FPHA, receiving 17 two-family housing units, shipping from Louisiana. However, they acknowledged in a letter to married veteran students in August of 1946 that they would not be able to open the apartments for occupancy. They resorted to telling married students to come alone, where they would be housed in the stadium rooms created for their purposes. 

After many more delays attributed to the FPHA’s bureaucratic processes, the project was finally completed in February 1947. This delay created a rocky relationship between the FPHA and Carleton, but ultimately the project was finally formally purchased and turned over to the college in 1948. The space was occupied by student families until 1955. The college announced that on April 1st, 1955, the structures which made up the village were sold to a real estate company in Lakeville. By then, only fifteen residents remained, who had to move out now that the college provided no special accommodations for married students.