Question Box: What's that cottage thing by Mason Pond?

Earlier this summer, Connect2Mason received an inquiry about the small white cottage by Mason Pond. (Daniel McEnrue) 

While walking around Mason, it isn’t unusual to notice strange oddities—particularly when it comes to art. You may wonder why a particular bush appears to look like a sheep, or why there is an umbrella-like structure with red wires. One of the strangest pieces of art at Mason, however, is a building that everyone has seen, but likely knows very little about. It is the small white cottage overlooking Mason Pond.

Cross Cottage has been a part of Mason since 1988 when it was purchased at one of Mason’s Arts Galas. The Arts Gala, created by Joanne Johnson, the wife of George W. Johnson, Mason’s president in 1981, was a program of events that raised support for the arts at Mason, said Mike Kelley, the executive director of The Capital Connection, and a distinguished service professor at Mason. The last Arts Gala took place in September of 1996.

In 1988, Cross Builders constructed the Cross Cottage to be sold at an auction benefiting the Arts Gala.

The cottage was assembled in sections inside the Patriot Center and presented before auction at a gala dinner. The dinner featured an orchestra and a dance floor, with the Cross Cottage, fully furnished and lighted, appearing in the middle of the room as if it were “a glowing jewel,” according to Kelley. Because it was indoors, guests were invited to walk around and look inside.

At the time the real estate market was dipping, and the cottage did not receive any bids. In an attempt to encourage bidding, Kelley opened the bidding at $25,000. No further bids were placed, leaving Kelley as the winner.

“[T]he 1988 Arts Gala auction ended with me as the winner of Cross Cottage. There was coverage of the event in the Washington Post and some of my colleagues in the English Department and elsewhere at GMU thought that I had inexplicably spent $25,000 for a ‘doll house.’” said Kelley.

However, through the help of benefactors Kelley was able to pay for the cottage at no cost to the university.

“In the weeks that followed, a number of wealthy benefactors came to my rescue, dividing up the total auction price with individual contributions and saving me from putting up the entire amount,” said Kelley.

”We all wound up contributing about $5,000 each to the Arts Gala Fund that year for a grand total of more than $30,000.”

Since its creation, Cross Cottage has been the sight of several weddings and poetry readings, as well as a picturesque stop for students making their way from Lot K to the Mason campus.

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