The original student houses on First and Second Street, which are named after those deeply involved in founding the College (including founders Vincent Ravi Booth, Mr. and Mrs. Hall Park McCullough, and William Heard Kilpatrick), were built along with Commons between 1931 and 1936 by over 100 local craftsmen, many of whom had been out of work since the stock market crash of 1929.
As you walk toward the far end of Commons Lawn, take a moment to examine the Boston ivy covering the east side of Commons. An iconic element in New England college campuses, Boston ivy is actually native to Asia but has been planted widely throughout the Eastern United States. This deciduous creeping vine is more closely related to grapes than to true evergreen ivy. Boston Ivy is a rapid climber, using its long tendrils to attach it to walls. Each tendril secretes calcium carbonate (the primary component of limestone and marble), which cements the plant to the vertical surface. This cementing process can make Boston ivy and other climbing vines quite difficult to remove once they become established.
From the far end of Commons Lawn, affectionately known as the “End of the World,” you have a great view of Mount Anthony, which is part of the Taconic Range, as well as the Green Mountains farther to the east. The Taconic Range arose approximately 470 million years ago when the early North American continent collided with a string of volcanic islands formed by the approach of early Europe. The Green Mountains began at a similar time, but were formed largely when the two continents finally collided, approximately 380 million years ago. Both ranges are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain that stretches from Georgia and Alabama to Canada.
Although the Appalachian Mountains we are familiar with today are quite small and rounded, in their youth they were likely to be as tall and jagged as the Himalaya—very similar processes formed both ranges. The Appalachians we see today are the aged, mature remnants of a taller, more youthful mountain range that has been worn down by millions of years of weathering and erosion.
The Taconic Range on your right is home to some of the world’s finest commercial slate, extracted in the slate belt that runs along the northern end of the range between eastern New York and Vermont. If you take a close look, you’ll see that the houses on Commons Lawn all feature slate roofs sourced from nearby quarries.