A National Historic Landmark, Pine Mountain Settlement School was founded in 1913 as a school for children in the commonwealth's remote southeastern mountains and a social center for surrounding communities. The school was the dream of a local man, William Creech Sr., who was troubled by the area's lack of educational opportunities, and the prevalence of social problems and rampant disease. He donated land for the school and recruited two women, Katherine Pettit of Lexington, Kentucky, and Ethel DeLong, New Jersey native, to establish and run the new institution. These two women enlisted the help of architect Mary Rockwell Hook of Kansas City to draw up plans for the campus and its buildings.
From 1913 to 1930, Pine Mountain served as a boarding school for elementary and middle school age children. By 1930, many communities had elementary schools, but most did not offer educational opportunities beyond eighth grade. Pine Mountain evolved into a boarding school for high school students. The School stressed academics, but also encouraged students to develop their interests and talents in vocational and artistic fields. In 1949, Pine Mountain began a joint educational venture with the county school system to operate a community elementary school. The community school operated until the early 1970s, when Pine Mountain began to focus its work on environmental education.
Dr. Walter P. Oldendorf (1937-2010) was the collector of most of this donation. Born in Evanston, Illinois on May 31, 1937, Oldendorf was the sone of Walter M. Oldendorf and Dorothy Powell Oldendorf O'Donnell. He taught at National College in Evanston, Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Cullowhee, North Carolina. At the time of his death, he was a professor and Director of the Fifth Dimension After School Program at Appalachian State University. He and his wife, Sandra, had four children: Ann, Walter, Andrea, and Andrew. Oldendorf died on February 22, 2010.