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History



  1. Why South Houses?
      Before the South Hovses were built, Caltech had a number of off campus greek fraturnities along with a dormatory. The Trustees decided that they wanted to build better on campus housing for the students. As part of the process the Trustees wanted a study of how other Universities houses studentes.

      "Early in November, 1930, the Board of Trustees requested the President of the Associated Students Body to appoint a representative committee of nine undergraduates to prepare a plan for the organization of student life in these houses." [Bulletin of the California Institute of Technology, Vol XL, Number 141, Report on Undergraduate Student Houses, March 1931] Walter Scholtz (fr: 1929, left: after 3rd term 1933) was on that committee. He was also selected to be one of 3 that was given a leave of absence and funding to go look at other college houses and report back. They looked at: Oxford, Cambridge, University of London, Cite University (France), the University of Toronto (Canada), Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore, Haverford, Cornell, Duke, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Miltary Academy (West Point), Williams and the University of Chicago. After reporting back to the other six committee members, the quoted Bulletin was written.

      The overall structure of the South Houses was designed by the architect Gordon B. Kaufmann who also designed the Caltech Atheneum. Building began probably after 3 April 1930 and was completed by September 1931. The cost of each house was to have been about $200,000.
        During an address of Mr. Henry O'Melveny on 3 April 1930 announcing the name of Fleming House, he said, "Mr Joseph B. Dabney made an offer about two years ago to provide the first of four of there college units, or residence halls, at a cost of $200,000 each. [Source an note of mine based on primary research]


  2. Who was Robert Roe Blacker?
      Robert Roe Blacker (born: late August or early September 1845, died: 18 September 1931) was born in Ontario Canada. His father owned a brickworks in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. As a young man, Robert moved to US. He entered the lumber and salt manufacturing business in Manistee, Michigan. He was very successful and in time was Secretary of State for the State of Michigan. He is a named party in a US Supreme Court Decision. The Manistee County Airport is named after Mr. Blacker.

      He was successful enough to retire at age 62 in 1907 and move to Pasadena. He was survived by his 2nd wife (his first wife died and is buried in Manistee). His second wife was Nellie Celeste Canfield Blacker. They commissioned Green & Green to design and build their home which is also known as Blacker House. That house is located at 1177 Hillcrest Ave in Pasadena and is dated as 1907. When this House was sold in later years, the new owners removed all of the fixtures with days of the sale and took them away. This desicration of a historic home lead Pasadena to pass a law named after Mr. Blacker to prevent this from happening again.

      Mr. Blacker's sister, Ann (Annie) Blacker also moved to Pasadena. She had a Greeen & Green house built on 675 S. Madison Ave. It is dated 1912.

      Robert also gave a library to McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

      Mr. Blacker never saw Blacker Hovse. Shortly before his death he communicated that he was looking forward to his first visit to Caltech since Blacker House had been completed. He died after a long illness in his Santa Monica home. His ashes were taken to his boyhood home. It is not known if Robert had any children, but no progeny survived his death.

      (Information on Robert Blacker's life is based in part from his Obituary in The Pasadena Star News, 18 September 1931

  3. When was Blacker first organized?
      On Thursday, May 14, 1931 the students that started Blacker met in the Atheneum with Dr. Millikan. The students proceeded to elect a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The first room pick was held on Friday, June 5th, 1931. The members of Blacker moved into the Hovse shortly before Monday, 28 Sept 1931.

  4. Why Blacker Hovse?
      The 4 south Houses were built based on the gifts of a number of people. Blacker House was built with a donation of $200,000 from Mr. Robert Roe Blacker, then a trustee of Caltech. Dabney and Ricketts were built with similar donations from Mr. Dabney and Mr. Ricketts, both also trustees. Fleming was built with the donations of 20 people with the name Fleming was chosen to honor Arthur Fleming, the chairman of the Board of Trustees.

  5. Which fraternity primarily populated Blacker?
      Phi Alpha Rho Omicron Sigma, aka the Pharos. The Caltech chapter of the Pharos was founded in 1921. Their final residence before Blacker opened was 593 W. California Blvd in Pasadena. At least seven members of this Fraturnity moved into Blacker, including the first president, John Voris Chambers (fr: 1928, grad 1932).

  6. Why is Blacker (and the other South Houses) referred to as "Hovses" instead of houses?
      Look at the names of the South Hovses as they are pseudo chiseled into the walls. They are spelled with a "v" in the style of old lettering. The North Houses have a normal "u".

  7. When did women first come to Blacker/Caltech?
      Women first came to Caltech in the 1969-1970 school year. 4 of them spent a term on campus in Fleming. The powers that be decide that women undergrads would be a good thing and a number were admitted the following year (fall 1970). It was decided that the women would be housed separately in single sex alleys. The alleys chosen were Blacker's Tunnel and Heaven and Dabney's Lower 7. Since the Rickett's RAs were a couple, they were switched to Blacker.

      Bill Drake (fr: 1966, grad: 1970) was Blacker president for 1969 to 1970 and he wrote in an email:
        I participated in a great number of meetings with Trustees, Administration, and the other house presidents trying to figure out how to accomodate the new undergraduate population and satisfy parental concerns, administration concerns, and undergraduate male population concerns. Not only did the student houses have to be modified, but the health center, physical education and a number of other campus facilities had to be prepared.

      The rooms of Womb in Blacker were removed and replaced with a new RA suite; this being inside the new women's area. However, this new apartment was not ready until at least 1971-1972. Doors were added near the RA's apartment, between Heaven and Hell and presumably in Dabney. This was, in theory, so that the men would be locked out at night and the women would hence be safe from the Evil Tech males. This setup lasted for a term, where upon Blacker voted on where to make all Blacker alleys co-ed. The co-ed movement passed. At this time, some women chose to move to other Houses, but most of those in Blacker remained in Blacker. The Old RA suite in Pub was remodeled into a new double, 5A, and a public kitchen.

  8. Why Gamma Delta Beta Gamma?
      In the late 1970s Blacker was heavy into elevator trolling and keys. One day a few Moles lead by Charles Scott Reynolds (fr: 1975) were sitting on top of an elevator. Some security guards came in and happened to use that elevator. The guards were complaining about something that the "God Damned Blacker Gang" had done (contemporaries confirm that it was "Gang" and not "Guys" as some versions of the story have mentioned). So the next Blacker RF was signed with "Gamma Delta Beta Gamma"...

  9. Has there been a Blacker Constitution?
      Rumor has it that one may have existed for a short period of time. I can conclusively say that one did not exist before 30 March 1965. (Blacker has complete secretarial records until that date). I know that a Constitution did not exist after 1980. In the middle the data is muddied.

      Eric Shiff (Fr: 1967, Grad: 1971), president in 1970, reports that from 1967 to 1971 a lot of formal traditions (UCCs, dress dinner, etc) were abandoned. He stated that by 1970 "no formal records were kept of anything except finances." [Email dated 20 Mar 1993].

      There is no other proof; just legends. However the legends also state that all copies of rumored Constitution have long since been burned.

      Blacker has been very proud that it has not needed a Constitution to run things. Blacker's laws can be summed up as, in the words of Mark Montague (Fr: 1985, Grad: 1993) "No major uncools", and "the Secretary has infinite discretion in settling roompick disputes". Other than that the president has free reign to do what he or she thinks is right. Roompick rules are an oral tradition that sometimes are voted upon by the Hovse and lately have been up to the whim of the Secretary.

  10. Why are people of Blacker called Moles
      The popular legend is that people in Blacker are called Moles due to there extensive use of the tunnels. I have not tracked this legend down yet. I do know that the men of Blacker were called "Blackerites" in the 1950s. The term "Moles" has been around since before 1980. I wouldn't be surprised if Moles is a derogatory take off on Trolls. Or because the people of Blacker were exceptionally nocturnal at that time. (Side note: to troll is to work hard. Legend has it that the word "troll" is because all of the study rooms used to be in the sub-basement of Bridge. So those who worked hard spend a lot of time in the Bridge sub-basement. And everyone knows that Trolls live under bridges...)

Page last modified 15 January 2007 FAQ author: Benjamin Smith (fr: 1989, grad 1994).
version: 2.1
Last modified: 19 January 2017, Copyright 2015
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