Carson Cottage, originally known as the Y Hut, is currently the home of the student publications offices and music practice rooms. Built in 1923, the building was renamed the Carson-Y in 1954 in recognition of Martha Campbell Carson’s support of the College.
In 1959 the facility was completely refurbished with a sizable addition, the Helen Meixel Fox Alumnae Headquarters. Over the years, Carson Cottage has been a home to day students, alumnae, adult learners, and several administrative offices on campus. In 1989 the Office of Alumnae Programs moved to Alumnae House, freeing additional space for the increasing needs of Adult Learning Services.
Martha Carson was born in Stone Mountain, Ga., in 1875, one of the 11 children of Elizabeth Chewning and Sheldon Harris Campbell. Her father was a plantation owner and farmer who in later years also operated a store in nearby Decatur. Educated in country schools, Mrs. Carson dreamed of a college education but at that time a college education was not considered a prerequisite for a successful life for a woman. Even though her father left her money for college, her brother said it was a waste and would not let her go.
In 1898 she married Otis Mills Carson, a Charlestown-educated cotton planter and agent, and they had one daughter, Frances Carson Waring ’21. Otis Carson died at age 44, in Greenville, N.C. of spinal meningitis.
Faced with the responsibility of raising her daughter, then age 12, alone, Mrs. Carson sought employment in the only profession she knew, housekeeping. Her first job was with Bristol, a finishing school in Washington, where she was employed as the hostess in the French House and the director of cuisine. While working there she was called by an employment agency and told that she had been recommended for the position of college dietitian at Hood. She came to Hood in September 1914.
Mrs. Carson worked for Hood College for 34 years as the College matron and dietitian. In later years she also taught institutional foods management laboratory classes in the department of home economics.
Many Hood alumnae remember Mrs. Carson as a gracious, genteel Southern lady who brought simple elegance and refinement to the life of the campus. She is also remembered for her ingenuity and resourcefulness. In the early days, funds for equipment for the dining facility were nonexistent. She was always improvising, decorating paper plates with rose buds when there was a shortage of china or covering ordinary kitchen bowls with flowers to serve as punch bowls. To raise extra money for the building fund, she would cater for outside groups in the College facilities during student vacations. While at Hood she published three cookbooks to raise funds for the Joseph Henry Apple Library Fund, one of which, “Selected Recipes,” has been reprinted as a fundraiser for the Hood Gerontological Society.
Mrs. Carson’s job was not only to prepare meals for students but also to manage the canning and storing operations of the College Farm. The College operated a large farm on the campus from which crops were harvested and canned to feed the students during the academic year. In the early years the dining hall was on the first floor of Shriner and the basement served as the root cellar in which Mrs. Carson stored such items as potatoes, pears and apples. Her keen business acumen and stamina served her well, and she continued to manage the food service successfully through both World War I and World War II.
She was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church, served on the Citizen’s Advisory Council of the Salvation Army, and was active in the Frederick Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. She was also an honorary member of the Hood College Alumnae Association and the Class of ’21.
Upon her retirement from Hood in 1948, she took a part-time position at the Episcopal Church Center in Frederick, and enrolled in classes in art and creative writing. Mrs. Carson died of a stroke on September 8, 1954, and is buried in Comanche, Texas, near the Windy Hill Farm home of her daughter Frances.