Then there are the houses that were built by schools expressly for the purpose of, well, housing students. Why would a college build a bunch of what look like one-family center-hall Colonials when they could build a big dorm instead? Good question. The story goes something like this:
When New Jersey College for Women was founded in 1918, resident students lived in the large house on George Street which is now known as College Hall. Dean Mabel Smith Douglass knew that the school would grow, so she and the board started exploring housing options for the anticipated student body. However, the search for funding to build dormitories was difficult. No lending institution would extend credit to a women's college, fearing that the school would fail to attract students and would be forced to close before paying its debts.
One bank, however, agreed to an innovative solution: build housing that litterally was houses. By constructing what was essentially a subdivision, NJC would gain a substantial number of dormitory rooms for its students. If the school defaulted on the loan, the bank would have a much easier time unloading individual houses than it would face in selling a large building.
|A few of the Corwin houses on the second horseshoe.|
Renamed Douglass College in 1955, the school continued to grow and prosper, prompting the construction of more traditional dorm housing closer to the central campus. Expansion also meant that additional academic buildings were built closer to the Gibbons campus, making that housing more desirable. Corwin, on the other hand, was separated from the rest of Douglass by several Cook College buildings. While generally considered 'last resort' housing, those relegated to living in Corwin were fiercely loyal to their homes on the horseshoes. The coziness of the houses, plus the familiarity that comes from living in close quarters with 16 other students, engendered a unique kind of camaraderie among housemates.
Though the Gibbons houses are still in use as housing, Corwin stands largely vacant. A handful of the houses have served as offices for various university departments, but for the most part, the campus looks like a dated subdivision awaiting its first families to move in. Given the costs of retrofitting more than 20 houses with fire suppression systems and internet access, and the university's zeal in building new housing, it's not likely that Corwin will ever serve as dorm space again.