Pine Mountain Settlement School
Open House
1919 – 1972

MARY ROCKWELL HOOK Architect Trustee

View of south flank of Open House showing balcony and two levels, including sleeping porch at top. [hook_album_2blk__044.jpg]

Open House, 1919 – 1972

TAGS: Open House, Mary Rockwell Hook, women architects, fire, furniture designers, Marguerite Butler, Ethel McCullough, “Scrap House,” Burton Rogers, autobiographies


Open House was just that, always open to visitors and full of air and light. Designed by Mary Rockwell Hook, the principal architect for the School, the house was designed in the summer of 1919 to serve as a personal residence for Hook while she was at Pine Mountain. Ethel McCullough and Margaurite Butler, two Pine Mountain staff members, also wanted to build at the School and they shared in the ownership of the building for many year. But it was Hook who, for most of her life, came to the School for at least some weeks in the summer. Often, she had grandchildren in tow or friends or relatives who joined her.

When she died, the house and the land became the property of Pine Mountain Settlement School. The building burned in 1972 as the result of an unattended fire in an exterior fireplace.

The house was of frame construction with a siding of slab lumber, generally lumber rejected at the mills, as it contained “imperfections” such as bark and knot-holes. The plan was a two-story structure with a large living room and fireplace elevated for cooking, a small kitchen area and a lower sleeping porch in the back of the home. The upper level contained a large sleeping porch that had open windows on three sides that looked out into the dense forest that surrounded the building. It was a cool and hospitable home in summer but was not suitable for winter living as it had no source of heat other than the interior fireplace on the lower level.

Hook had the assistance of local men to bring her plan into reality, in particular, the two sons of Uncle William Creech who were skilled carpenters and builders. The Creech Letters include the following note:

Columbus [Columbus Creech] was here working at O.H. [Open House] all day yesterday and Henry [Henry C. Creechis coming tomorrow. It looks a little more livable now….

At the rear south side of the home, there was another fireplace that was an outdoor cooking area that adjoined a terrace. From this area, there was a short path to Laurel House that allowed for easy access to meals at the central dining area of the campus if needed.

Rustic, spacious, tranquil, and spartan in furniture and decoration, the house blended well with the environment. Often there were lovely blue Mexican glass pieces set about that held summer flowers or fall leaves. Many of the furniture pieces were of Mary Rockwell Hook’s design. She and her sister were avid furniture designers and the pieces reflected some of their earlier work.

Open House was featured in an article by Marie Alice L’Heureux “Well Connected,” in the May 2006 issue of Urban Planning & Architecture, volume 8, pages 78-83. This illustrated article includes extensive information on Mary Rockwell Hook, particularly her work at Pine Mountain Settlement School. Daniel Coleman has also written an article “Mary Rockwell Hook” which discusses the Marie Alice L’Heureux “Well Connected” article. His article is included in “The Pendergast Years: Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.”

Some of the images given, as in the collection of “cobb” [Alice Cobb, PMSS Secretary] at Pine Mountain, may be from those donated to Pine Mountain by Hook from the photographer for the L’Heureux article “Well Connected” in the Urban Planning & Architecture, volume 8, pages 78-83. The complex wanderings and attributions of the Open House photographs have not been fully resolved.

[NOTE: Attribution research is still underway for some of the early images of Open House, particularly the interior photographs.]

OPEN HOUSE: The “Scrap House”

In her autobiography “This and That”, written in 1970, and dedicated to Burton Rogers, Mary relates that

When I was given an acre of ground at Pine Mountain, I started making plans for the house I would build. Ethel McCullough and Margaurite Butler also wanted to build a house for themselves, but I suggested that we build one house for all three of us. It was a two-story house, with a sleeping porch and dressing room for each of us, and a studio for me. I called it “Open House.”

Mary Rockwell Hook writing to Glyn Morris in 1932 describes her Open House for him:

Dec. 27, [1932]
Dear Mr. Morris,

I was quite delighted with the appreciation of Open House shown by the writer of the article you sent me.

If you ever see him again, I wish you would tell him that I know he is a poet [?].

The House always seems to me a place of enchantment, I love every bit of it.

The man who built it for me called it the “Scrap House” because I used the ends of the logs left over for Big Log and the slabs were used to burn to run the sawmill [boiler]. We cut the rafters and studs and Uncle William stood over us to be sure we skinned them. The site was covered with blackberry bushes as tall as the rocks and I cut them out myself. Every bush fought for its life by attacking me in some vulnerable spot. ….

[To see the entire letter go to CORRESPONDENCE 1932. []



Perched high above two large rocks, against the bosom of Pine Mountain, stands Open House. Its surroundings are silent save for the rustling of autumn leaves and distant sounds. The front door stands open revealing the cozy little living room, heated by the open fireplace.

Open House was built in the early spring of 1916 (sic) under the supervision of Uncle William Creech. The acre of land upon which it stands was given to Mary Rockwell Hook by Miss Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long Zande. The building materials were financed by Marguerite Butler, Ethel McCullough and Mary Rockwell Hook for their enjoyment and that of summer guests of the school.

It was made from the ends of the logs left over from Big Log House, poles cut by Columbus Creech from the mountain and pieces of lumber from the saw mill.

In the early years Miss Butler and Miss McCullough gave their interest in the house to Miss Pettit, who later left it to the school.

Today Open House is one of the lovely spots of Pine Mountain, noted for its simplicity and its rustic furniture, pottery and weaving.

THE PINE CONE, Vol. 5, No., 3, November 1938, pages 3-4.

OPEN HOUSE: Recycled Materials

The signature elements of Hook may be readily seen in the house built on a small plot of land on the Pine Mountain Settlement campus. Mary Rockwell and two of her colleagues, Marguerite Butler and Ethel McCullough, apparently leased or simply paid for the construction of a house would sit among the other buildings of the School. Apparently she shared ownership of the house with two other Pine Mountain staff women who took the opportunity to utilize their combined resources to produce a house to be used for themselves and for visitors. The house was given to Pine Mountain late in Mary’s life though the details of the ownership transfer are vague in the Pine Mountain record. When the transfer took place, Mary, apparently, was the sole owner at the time.

Designed as a summer residence, the rustic house, which Hook named” Open House, ” was constructed partially from recycled remainders of stone and wood from the many building projects at the School. Hook frequently spent her summers in the house. It was a large, rambling structure that also accommodated the many guests who often visited the School with Mary or Marguerite or Ethel, or as guests of the School, when the builders were not in residence. The home relied on fireplaces for heat and cooking and had two exposed sleeping porches to the rear of the structure.

Open House, west flank. Served as Hook’s personal home while working for Pine Mountain Settlement School, Harlan, KY. cobb_alice_037

Mary seemed to like the description of “Open House” found in a 1930s article from the Louisville Courier-Journal which she quoted it in her autobiography

” …and the hospitality of Pine Mountain will fill you with a glow, Glyn Morris will guide you to the ‘Open House’, a guest cabin, perched on a big rock with its screened sleeping porches jutting over the very jungle. This house will interest you from the front porch to the second floor. Everything brings an artistic adaptation of “local to locality” — slab sides, rafter poles, stone fireplaces, woodcraft in evidence at every turn, plenty of the homespun, and fragrances of the forest pervading every room. You would go wild about this house. It seems to have grown of its own vitality from the rocks and woods. And so secluded is it, back in the white rhododendrons and ferns, that even Glyn Morris (the then Director of the School), leading us by flashlight, could hardly find it, along about “Whip-poor-will hour.”

The house today cannot be found at “Whip-poor-will-hour” or any other hour as it was consumed by fire in c. 1972 due to poor monitoring of a fire in the exterior fireplace at the rear of the structure.

Today, only the interior fireplace and its chimney stand in the forest just to the East of Laurel House, as a lonely reminder of the many happy days that were spent there. It was a house where so many staff, students, and visitors enjoyed the beauty of the architect’s well-designed structure and its integrated woodland site — a testimony to the architect’s sensitivity to “place” that shines in all her buildings at the School.

See Also:

MARY ROCKWELL HOOK Architect Biography
 MARY ROCKWELL HOOK Correspondence Guide
MARY ROCKWELL HOOK Photo Album II part 1





Alt. Title

Mrs. Mary Rockwell Hook’s House




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Mary Rockwell Hook

Subject Keyword

Open House, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Mary Rockwell Hook , women architects, houses, historical architecture, architects, fires, frame buildings, slab lumber sidings, fireplaces, sleeping porches, terraces, Laurel House, furniture, Mexican glass, furniture design, Marie Alice L’Heureux, Urban Planning & Architecture magazine, rustic architecture, footbridge, Pine Mountain, KY , Harlan County, KY, The Pine Cone, Marguerite Butler, Ethel McCullough, Katherine Pettit, Ethel de Long Zande, Uncle William Creech, Columbus Creech, Henry J. Creech, 

Subject LCSH

Open House — Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Architecture — Pine Mountain Settlement School.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Historic Buildings — Kentucky — Appalachia.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.

Date digital



Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Collections ; text ; JPG images ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet


Series 10: Built Environment (Physical Plant)




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 10: Built Environment (Physical Plant) ; Series 09: Personnel – Mary Rockwell Hook ; Kentucky Virtual Library collections <> [searchable]
Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives <>
Transylvania College Archives <>
Univ. of KY Appalachian Archives <>
National Historic Landmarks Database <>

Coverage Temporal

1919 – 1972

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers about Open House ; clippings, photographs, books about Open House ;


Constructed 1919


Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2014-02-05 hw ; 2014-05-20 aae ; 2018-11-22 aae ; 2021-03-30 aae ;



L’Heureux, Mary Alice. “Well Connected.” Urban Planning & Architecture. 8 (May 2006): 78-83. Print. This illustrated article includes extensive information on Mary Rockwell Hook, particularly her work at Pine Mountain Settlement School, KY.

Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. PMSS Archives, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

THE PINE CONE, Vol. 5, No., 3, November 1938, pages 3-4. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. PMSS Archives, Pine Mountain, KY. Internet resource.