Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Exploring the Casa

I got a look yesterday at "the Casa," the ground floor of Carondelet Hall that houses the Mount's male nursing students. I'd read that it once functioned as a real "home" and had found these pictures taken in 1959 shortly after it was built.

Home Economics was a big major in the 1950s and 1960s. The Casa Marguerita, named for department founder Sister Marguerite Ellard, CSJ, was built into the new Carondelet Hall as a state-of-the-art laboratory. Teams of a half-dozen upper-division Home Ec majors would live as a family in the eight-room apartment for six weeks, responsible for putting theory into practice: household budgeting, meal planning, shopping, cooking, laundry and sewing. The Casa had (and still has) its own entrance and can't be accessed from the rest of the building, so it really had a set-apart quality that enhanced the lab experience.

These photos from The Mount 1960 show that the living room had a fireplace (at left in the upper picture) and was decorated with the sleek Danish Modern furniture popular at the time. A wall of glass sliders opened onto an ocean-view terrace and patio -- perfect for sunset soirées in keeping with the Brentwood Heights locale. Students cooked in an ultramodern "all-electric" kitchen with built-in appliances, just like the new subdivisions going up all over Southern California. Roomier-than-usual bedrooms (it was, after all, a dorm) and a vibrantly green-tiled bathroom completed the "home."

Times and culture change. Home Economics fell out of popularity as an academic major in the 1970s as women entered the job market and sought equality in the workplace. (It lives on in some places, including CSUN, as "Family and Consumer Sciences"). The fireplace and kitchen went away just a few years ago to create more sleeping space.

All that's left of the upscale ambience is the green tile and the million-dollar view from the west-facing rooms.


  1. Vicky, what a fantastic story! The Mount certainly has its nooks and crannies of history. Because so much has been reconfigured over the years, it is a revelation to find out fascinating stories about even the most common areas of campus. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Thanks, Paul -- another day, another nugget! We had one of Carondelet Hall's builders up here on Monday. Tunnels, trap doors, and all kinds of tales.