The Grand Rapids Press
Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Graves Hall undergoes $5.7M restoration

Dave Muller

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Making changes: Exterior and interior restorations are under way at Hope College's Graves Hall.

HOLLAND -- When it was dedicated in June 1894, Graves Hall housed Hope College's library, Winants Chapel and four second-floor classrooms.

With time, Graves has lost some of its campus stature.

The college chapel relocated to Dimnent Memorial Chapel in 1929. The library moved out in 1961. While a 1962 renovation revived the building as home for academic departments including sociology, social work, and modern and classic languages, that role ended when the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication opened in August 2005.

"It would be cheaper to rip the building down and put up something else," said Elton Bruins, a Hope religion professor emeritus. "But it has original architecture that's important to the Hope campus."

Because of that, a $5.7 million project is under way to restore the building to its original form with additions to ensure it remains functional.

The project will reverse renovations done in 1962 and 1980 and add 2,947 square feet to the 21,619-square-foot building.

The building was constructed for $40,000, named after Nathan Graves, whose family was involved with the Reformed Church in America. The Winants Chapel's namesake is Gerrit Winants.

While the work is being done, the college's Children's After School Achievement and Upward Bound programs have been temporarily relocated. The work is expected to be completed by June 2009.

Lakewood Construction of Holland Township is the general contractor and Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc., of Grand Rapids is the project architect.

Donations fund project

The project is being funded by an undisclosed donation from 1964 Hope graduates Edward Marsilje and Diana Hellenga Marsilje, with matching challenge gifts from donors.

Graves' Richardson Romanesque architecture has an almost medieval look, with large stone rectangles lining its walls and a circular tower with a conical roof. Its architect was W.K. Johnson of Chicago.

"There's a fair amount of it around West Michigan," said Phil Davis, the project architect, citing as an example the Hackley Public Library in Muskegon. "Basically, it is referred to that kind of use of somewhat simplified but heavy-handed use of stone. Also, the buildings are informally balanced; in other words, they're not symmetrical along a center line."

The building's interior will be gutted and some exterior stone -- first quarried in the nearby Black River -- will be replaced.

The new stonework -- being done by an Ohio firm -- is aged stone to blend in with other masonry more than a century old, said Greg Maybury, the project's manager and Hope's director of operations and technology.

Adaptive restoration

While blueprints from the Joint Archives of Holland were used, the renovation will be an adaptive restoration -- and not necessarily a historic renovation.

That includes putting stained glass -- removed in the 1980s -- in Winants Chapel's two half-moon windows and realigning the chapel's seating from 190 to 163 seats.

Other work includes:

-- Returning the second floor to its original four-classroom configuration.

-- Creating the President's Room, a gathering place inside the building's west entrance.

-- Adding a classroom northwest of the lobby, a main-floor kitchen and a stairwell on the second floor's eastern end.

-- A two-story addition for an elevator.

After the work, CASA and Upward Bound will return to the building's lower level.

The Schoon Meditation Chapel, created in the 1960s, will remain on the lower level.

Temporarily removed for the construction was the Hope College Arch, which was at the entrance of Graves.

For some like Bruins, a classics major at Hope from 1946 to 1950, the arch is a campus gateway.

"There's so much more of a sense of history in Holland, Michigan, now with our historic district and our historic monuments" he said. "Our campus gives us the ambience of the old and the new.

About Graves Hall

Graves Hall restoration project:
Here is a list of key events involving Hope College's Graves Hall:

Unveiled Oct. 12, 1892, and dedicated June 26, 1894, housing the college's Winants Chapel and library with four second-floor classrooms; built for $40,000.

The college's third-oldest building, behind Van Vleck Hall, completed in 1858, and the President's Home, completed in 1885. The three buildings border the college's Pine Grove, like Graves Hall.

Underwent renovations in 1962 and 1980, and also formerly housed the departments of sociology, social work and modern and classical languages

Source: Hope College