Named after the philanthropic Knights’ youngest daughter, Iona House had a colorful half-century life as a dormitory, missionary training home, therapy clinic, and Spanish laboratory.

Born December 18, 1891 in Provo, Addie Iona Knight was the youngest daughter of Latter-day Saint philanthropists Amanda McEwan Knight and Jesse Knight. Her older brother, J. William, recalled that Iona had “a keen intellect, a generous heart, and an unusually intelligent sense of humor.” Always eager to learn, Iona enjoyed discovering the world beyond Utah, and in 1907 she traveled throughout Europe (with a BYU professor chaperone).

Iona was well-educated; she studied first at Brigham Young University, then West Lake School for Girls in Los Angeles, and finally Stanford University in Palo Alto. While at Stanford, Iona befriended Professor David Starr Jordan—a renowned ichthyologist whose controversial legacy includes both democratizing education and propounding racist eugenics—and his wife Jessie Knight.

Iona moved back and forth between Provo and California, and she had a brief stint teaching in BYU’s English Department. She remained close to David and Jessie throughout her life and even moved back to Palo Alto to live with them during David’s final, ailing years. Iona remained in California, and she also died there after a long illness on May 7, 1937. She was buried with the rest of the Knight family in Provo.

The building’s story has its roots in 1942, when World War II defense workers flooded Provo, creating a housing shortage for students. To alleviate this, 1940s BYU bought houses and turned them into “co-op” student residences. Warnick House was the first, bought in 1942, and BYU considered it such a success they purchased and renovated a second in 1943, which they named Iona House, after the late English teacher.

Like Warnick, Iona was a “co-op.” Student residents shared bedrooms, restrooms, a kitchen, and communal spaces, and they bore responsibility for working together to manage the home. Cooperative living had its pluses; residents always had a group to hold activities with, whether potlucks or sled parties, and they knew how to work together. For example, in a 1945 Women’s Athletic Association softball tournament with several other dormitories plus PEMM (the Physical Education Majors club), Iona’s residents lost only one game and overall tied with PEMM. Three years later, the 1948 residents won the Homecoming parade’s best humor award for their float, which “portrayed college life in the dormitories and completed the task so well.”

In 1959, the need for men’s housing increased such that Iona House switched from a women’s residence to a male graduate student residence. For the next three decades, Iona served numerous purposes. In the 1960s or 1970s, Church missionaries learning to speak Navajo lived in Iona, and from sometime in the 1970s until 1976, sister missionaries learning Italian lived there. From 1976 to at least 1979, BYU Marriage and Family Counseling held its clinic in Iona. Finally, in the 1980s, Iona was the “Spanish House” for students in the intensive Spanish language program.

In the early 1990s, BYU decided Iona had run its course. It demolished the building and apparently sold the lot; today, townhouses fill the property.

Images

Addie Iona Knight Jordan
Addie Iona Knight Jordan Her older brother, J. William, praised her “keen intellect” and “unusually intelligent sense of humor.” Iona involved herself in education and learning for her whole life, from childhood Sunday School all the way to teaching at Brigham Young University. Source: In J. William Knight, The Jesse Knight Family: Jesse Knight, His Forebears and Family (n.p.: Deseret News Press, 1940), 136. Via Google Books. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Jesse_Knight_Family/mw5WAAAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0.
Leaving Europe
Leaving Europe After “several months sightseeing in Europe,” Iona and her friends accompanied the young missionary R. Eugene Allen home. Allen went on to marry Inez Knight, one of Iona’s older sisters. Source: “Elder Allen Released,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, July 4, 1907, 426–427, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/millennialstar6927eng/page/424.
Iona’s books
Iona’s books A few years after Iona died, her children Lee and Ruth donated her private book collection, 185 volumes total, to BYU’s library. Source: “Jordan Collection Added to Library,” Y News, May 22, 1942, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/ynews2128brig/page/n3/.
“Another cooperative dormitory”
“Another cooperative dormitory” The suggested name “Ione” might be a typo for “Iona,” making this second co-op dorm the building that would become Iona House. Source: “Y Remodels New Co-op Dorm,” Y News, May 13, 1943, via Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/ynews19430513brig/page/n3/mode/.
“Iona is undefeated”
“Iona is undefeated” Iona House’s residents took the 1945 Women’s Athletics Association softball tournament by storm, and the Y News took note. Source: “Knighties Down Allen Hall,” Y News, May 24, 1945, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/ynews2428brig/page/n3/.
“Both teams played well”
“Both teams played well” The only game the 1945 Iona residents lost was to PEMM, the Physical Education Majors club at BYU. Source: “Tourney Ends in Tie,” Y News, May 31, 1945, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/ynews2429brig/page/n3/.
Young comedians
Young comedians In 1948, the “girls representing the Iona house” had a knack for slice-of-life humor as they parodied dormitory life in their Homecoming parade float. Source: “Weather, Grid Victory Combine for Perfect ‘Y’ Homecoming Event,” Provo Sunday Herald, October 31, 1948, via Utah Digital Newspapers, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6rv4cg9/22712715.
“Bob-sled party”
“Bob-sled party” The 1949 Iona residents evidently did not do dates by halves, based on Winter quarter president and winter party chair Fredora Fuller’s description of the “bob-sled party” they were planning. Source: “Iona House Girls Plan Sled Party,”Brigham Young Universe, January 27, 1949, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/brighamyounguniv114asso/page/n1/.
Graduate student housing
Graduate student housing While Iona’s status in the decade between 1949 and 1959 is not completely clear, by 1959 BYU evidently decided to use Iona as male graduate student housing instead of as female undergraduate housing. The “meals at Allen Hall” mentioned would have been at R. Eugene and Inez Knight Allen Hall, a men’s BYU dormitory down the road from Iona. Source: “Dept. Opens New Grad. Homes,” Daily Universe, April 17, 1959, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/dailyuniverse11130asso/page/n7/.
“Formerly housed sister missionaries going to Italy”
“Formerly housed sister missionaries going to Italy” At what point Iona started housing Italian-speaking sister missionaries is not entirely clear, though it may have begun as early as 1973, based on an elder missionary’s retrospective reminiscence of that year. Source: “Y-owned Houses Reassigned,” Daily Universe, July 7, 1976, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/dailyuniverse29167asso/page/n5.
“Located in the Iona House”
“Located in the Iona House” As mentioned in the July 1976 clipping, after the Church was finished using Iona as missionary housing, BYU transitioned the building to be the campus Marriage and Family Counseling. Source: Daily Universe. “Marriage Counseling,” At-a-Glance, Daily Universe, January 26, 1979, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/dailyuniverse3290asso/page/n1/.
“Spanish House (Iona House)”
“Spanish House (Iona House)”  Sometime before, during, and beyond 1982, BYU’s intensive Spanish program students lived in Iona House. Perhaps this was a precursor to the contemporary Foreign Language Student Residences. Source: Melanie Mowrer, “Intensive Spanish Programs Planned for Cultural Center,” Daily Universe, May 27, 1982, via Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/dailyuniverse35147prov/page/n9/.

Location

700 N 213 East, Provo, UT 84606 | Iona House was on the northeast corner of the intersection until BYU demolished it in the early-1990s. Townhouses now occupy the lot where Iona once stood.

Metadata

Makoto Hunter, Brigham Young University, “Iona House,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 23, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/634.