Renovation of Hope College building saluted

October 4, 2010
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The recent adaptive restoration of Graves Hall has earned honorable mention in the Grand Valley American Institute of Architects 2010 Honor Awards program. Graves Hall was recognized for Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse.

According to a news release, Graves Hall, dedicated in 1894, re-opened in August 2009 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 century.

The architect was Philip M. Davis of Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. of Grand Rapids. Construction manager for the project was Lakewood Construction Inc. of Holland.

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 was informed by original blueprints as well as photographs and even living memory. Remade were 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.

The second floor again features four large classrooms as when the building opened in 1894, the varnished wooden doors and wainscoting 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 spaces.

A major new addition — built of stone that matches the rest of the building — 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,” a 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 array of technologies that exist in support of education and air conditioning.

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