The Ball and Chain Lane: The Homes for Married Students

Ball and Chain Lane: an affectionate name or a critical social commentary?

Hidden in the eastern corner of Whitworth campus, located behind the HUB where the parking lot currently is, stood a collection of residences once known as College Homes. These apartments came to be given the sardonic name of Ball and Chain Lane because the apartments were restricted to married students who were finishing their schooling at Whitworth. Ball and Chain Lane was comprised of an assortment of six old army barracks that Whitworth acquired after the Second World War, so they were far from comfortable. Mrs. Jim Doherty, a resident of Ball and Chain Lane in 1952, claimed the building contained all the conveniences including, "air conditioning in the winter and a heater in the summer," Clearly, Ball and Chain Lane was the height of luxury at Whitworth.

The college acquired the buildings for Ball and Chain Lane through the Mead Act, which was a post-war act that donated military buildings to schools around Washington State. Sixteen buildings were previously located at Baxter General Hospital and Port Orchard. Whitworth College received these buildings for free. Other buildings acquired for Whitworth through the Mead Act included: faculty apartments, Grieve Hall, Social Science Hall, the Tiffany Memorial Chapel, Music Building, Lancaster Hall, Goodsell Hall, Staff House, Nason Hall and Science Hall.

An important part of Ball and Chain Lane was the community. The wives of the Lane formed an association called the Wives' Club. Meeting monthly, the club provided a place for the women of Ball and Chain Lane to foster relationships through potluck dinners, playdates with the kids, and baking. The men also sought to foster community among themselves by forming a baseball team so that they could compete in intramurals against other dormitories.

In 1961,Whitworth campaigned to remodel the apartments from the picture of army luxury into modern cottages, with a cost of $9,000 per unit. The campaign fell flat on its face with the college unable to raise the funds necessary to revitalize Ball and Chain Lane. The Lane clung to life, however, and survived for nearly another two decades until 1978. With students complaining about moldy walls and lack of security at night, the maintenance director of Whitworth decided that a complete overhaul of married housing was required in order to keep it as a feasible living option. Otherwise, the housing should be eliminated. With that in mind, the Board of Trustees decided, in 1980, to phase out Ball and Chain Lane. Just like that, Ball and Chain Lane passed into the annals of Whitworth history not with a bang, but with a whimper.