posted September 29, 2009

Graves Hall to Be Celebrated During Homecoming

 Hope College will celebrate the recent restoration of Graves Hall with a series of activities on Friday-Sunday, Oct. 9-10.

Hope will hold a rededication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 9, at noon.  There will also be open houses on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 11, from 1 to 3 p.m.

Graves Hall re-opened at the beginning of the school year in August after a year-long, $5.7 million, adaptive restoration that has emphasized a return to the building's original character while updating the 19th-century landmark for use in the 21st.  The rededication events have been scheduled in conjunction with the college's Homecoming Weekend, during which hundreds of alumni will be returning to campus for class reunions and other activities.

During the 30-minute ceremony, the college's Alumni Association will present a Meritorious Service Award to Dr. Elton Bruins, who is former director of the college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute and the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor Emeritus of Religion at Hope and played a role in the restoration planning as a scholar of the building's history.  Bruins will be sharing a brief overview of the origins of the building.

The ceremony will also feature discussion of the renovation process by Jim Stroop, president of Lakewood Construction, and Philip M. Davis, vice president and senior architect with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc.; and a reading of the 1892 cornerstone ceremony speech by Juan Martinez of Holland, who is a Hope junior and former Upward Bound and Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program student.  Other participants will include Joel Bouwens, chairperson of the college's Board of Trustees; Bill Boersma, a member of the Board of Trustees; and Mark Van Genderen, president of the Hope College Alumni Association.

During each of the open houses, volunteers familiar with the building will be available to answer questions.

Dedicated in 1894, Graves was constructed as the college's chapel and library, but ceased serving as first one and then the other when Dimnent Memorial Chapel and Van Zoeren Library opened in 1929 and 1961 respectively.  Renovations in 1962 and 1980 reconfigured the building for new use, but at the expense of much of its beauty.

In both updating and restoring the historic structure, the latest work has been informed by original blueprints as well as photographs and even living memory.  Remade are the distinctive art-glass windows that were once a fixture in Winants Auditorium, a connection to the space's original use as Hope's chapel but removed in 1980 due to their deterioration.  As when the building opened in 1894, the second floor features four large classrooms, the varnished wooden doors and wainscoting without suggesting the classic elegance of a bygone era.  The main staircase, isolated behind metal doors in the 1962 redo, again greets visitors to the main lobby.  As prior to the restoration, the ground floor of the building continues to house the Upward Bound and CASA programs, as well as the Schoon Meditation Chapel, all in improved space.

A major new addition - built of stone to match the rest of the building and facing the Pine Grove - includes an elevator that provides access for the first time to the top and ground floors for those with mobility impairments.  Other features where the library stacks once stood include an additional classroom and the "Presidents' Room" conference room featuring portraits of all of Hope's presidents.  Additional amenities undreamed-of when the structure was built include wireless Internet service and wiring throughout for access to the complete array of technologies that exist in support of education and air conditioning.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.