posted February 18, 2008

Hope to Begin Adaptive Restoration of Graves Hall

One of Hope College's oldest and most distinctive buildings is being brought into the modern era while at the same time being returned to its original glory in an "adaptive restoration" that is beginning this spring.

Site preparation for the work at historic Graves Hall, which contains classrooms, meeting rooms and offices, has already started this month, including the temporary removal of the signature "HopeCollege" arch from in front of the building to provide access for construction equipment. Additional initial work will continue in the coming weeks with major construction beginning in the latter part of March or early April. The project, which will total $5.7 million, is scheduled for completion by the beginning of the fall 2009 semester.

Dedicated in 1894, Graves is Hope's third-oldest building and was constructed as the college's chapel and library in addition to originally housing four classrooms on the second floor. Built of locally quarried Waverly Stone, and featuring a round tower capped by a conical roof, Graves faces College Avenue at the end of a walkway fronted by the Hope arch, its immediate neighbors including other campus landmarks such as Voorhees Hall, Dimnent Memorial Chapel and the large metal Hope anchor.

"Graves Hall is a vital historic building as well as a beautiful one," said Dr. Elton Bruins, an expert on Hope's history and researcher with the college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute. "One reason that Graves is so important is that it's really the front door of the college."

The project has been planned to restore the character of the building as it existed before a major interior renovation in the 1960s while also meeting contemporary standards for access, safety and use, according to Greg Maybury, director of operations for the college.

"The project is an 'adaptive restoration,'" Maybury said. "We're trying to get as true a restoration of the interior as we can but also make it as well-suited as possible for current needs. It's a beautiful building with a rich history that we hope to honor and that we hope students and visitors will enjoy as they learn and attend events there."

Graves was built to house the college's chapel, named Winants Chapel, and library because Hope had outgrown the two locations previously serving that purpose, and served in those roles until it, too, was outgrown. Winants remained the college's chapel until Dimnent Memorial Chapel was constructed in 1929, and Graves served as the college's library until Van Zoeren Library (also since replaced) was completed in 1961.

The former Winants Chapel became part of the library in Graves after Dimnent Chapel was completed, and after the library moved out Graves was renovated in 1962 to provide more classroom space. Also during the 1962 renovation, the former chapel became a general-use auditorium, which was renovated in 1980.

Graves has housed a variety of Hope programs and departments since the 1962 renovation, and most recently was the headquarters of the department of modern and classical languages for many years until that program moved into the new Martha Miller Center for Global Communication in August 2005. Graves is also the home of the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) and Upward Bound programs, which have relocated for the construction but will return when the project is finished.

The interior work will undo many of the 1962 and 1980 changes, and has been informed by original blueprints from the college's collection in the Joint Archives of Holland.

When the auditorium was next renovated in 1980, the deteriorating stained glass from the building's chapel days was removed and the seating was angled toward the southwest instead of the south. The work beginning this spring will include restoring stained glass to the auditorium's windows based on surviving samples and reorienting the seating to the original southern facing of the chapel era. The seating will drop to 163 from 190, but will include additional space for wheelchairs.

Also in the 1962 renovation, some of the larger spaces were divided to create additional classrooms and office space on both floors, including the addition of a knee-walled second floor within the high-ceilinged northern end where the library stacks had been.

The smaller classrooms and meeting rooms that were carved out of the central part of the main floor in 1962 are also being reconfigured. The former "Presidents' Room" immediately inside the main western entrance, which prior to 1962 had been a study alcove and since was a conference room which housed portraits of A.C. Van Raalte and past Hope presidents, will become a gathering and pre-function area for the main auditorium. Another large classroom will be created on the northwest side of the lobby. The main floor will also include enlarged and improved restrooms as well as a small kitchen for events in the building.

The 1960s-era interior walls and the added second floor that divided the northern end are being removed and replaced by a large, single-storied room that will occupy most of the space, save for a secondary stairwell being installed along the eastern interior to meet fire code. The new large room will also become the new home to the presidential and Van Raalte portraits.

The restoration will also return the original central second story back to a four-classroom configuration, with the addition of access to the northeastern staircase.

The CASA and Upward Bound programs will both continue to reside in the building's lower level, although they will each gain space from portions of the level formerly used as offices for campus departments. The lower level will also continue to house the small Schoon Meditation Chapel created in the 1960s and named for the Rev. Henry Schoon, a former Hope professor.

In a significant change from the original, the modernization is prompting construction of a two-story addition on the building's eastern side, which faces the central campus. The addition is needed, Maybury noted, to allow the college to include an elevator which will provide access to the top and basement levels for those with mobility impairments.

Maybury explained that particular care was taken to plan an addition that will blend as well as possible with the original structure, with considerations including not only its design but also its exterior covering. Sufficient quantities of the local stone used on the rest of the building are not available for the entire addition (although some will be used on portions of it), but with the help of a historic-renovation architect Hope has located similar stone in Ohio.

The college will remove the open metal exterior stairway on the building's northern end. Although familiar to recent generations, the stair, which provided wheelchair access to the building's main floor, wasn't original to the building.

Graves Hall and Winants Chapel were named in honor of Nathan Graves and Gerrit Winants respectively. The Graves and Winants families had each contributed $10,000 toward the approximately $40,000 that it is estimated that the building cost to construct. The families' ties to Hope came through the Reformed Church in America, the college's parent denomination, whose eastern members provided critical support to Hope in its early years. Nathan Graves also donated books from his private library to the project.

The cornerstone for Graves was set in place on Oct. 12, 1892, at 2 p.m. It was formally unveiled by Hope President Charles Scott and his successor, President Gerrit Kollen. The building was dedicated on June 26, 1894.

The local stone of which Graves is made was quarried about a mile away from campus along the Black River near the corner of Waverly Avenue and Chicago Drive. The Tower Clock building on River Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Holland, built in 1892, is another Holland building made of the stone.

The two buildings at Hope older than Graves are Van Vleck Hall, which was built in 1858, and the President's Home, constructed from 1886 to 1892. Both buildings are within sight of Graves and, like Graves, border the college's central Pine Grove.