For almost 100 years since it was built, Van Peursem Hall has been a hub of learning and student activity in a variety of ways.
VPH, as it’s commonly known, has a complicated history, starting with its construction, which was completed in four separate sections at four different times.
The initial construction started in 1924. Later additions were made in 1947-1948, 1952-1953 and 1968.
The Van Peursem name comes from donor Martin Van Peursem, but when it was first named in 1957, the name only applied to the newest addition. It wasn’t until the 1968 expansion that the entire building was christened with the Van Peursem name. Before then, it was known as the Science Hall, and as such, it was primarily home to the science department.
It wasn’t until its later additions that the number of departments under its roof grew. In 1949, the available space on campus was greatly increased, and facilities added to the building included three well-lit classrooms, a music conservatory, a recording studio and modern laboratories for biology and physics that contained the latest lab equipment.
Of special interest was the recording studio, which was built for broadcasting activity and had one commodious recording room and an attached control room with the latest recording equipment.
In the 1950s, another addition to the Science Hall further increased the available classroom space. This construction project extended eastward from the last one, making the building into an L shape.
One feature of this addition was a large new entrance on the southeast side of the building, which students still use today. The project also included inviting corridors and large classrooms on all three floors, an enlarged music department, conference rooms, faculty office spaces, lounges and a kitchen. New large chemistry labs were added to the biology and physics laboratory spaces.
With the 1968 addition to the building, VPH became the U-shaped building we all know today.
Over the years, VPH has filled the role of a variety of facilities and has housed almost every department on campus. In addition to being the Science Hall and home to all the sciences, VPH was also home to the music department, the gymnasium and many classrooms for all kinds of majors.
“The music department was on the third floor,” said Nora Verburg, music department office assistant. “I had my senior recital in the old gym.”
Beginning with its first construction in 1924 until the Christ Chapel was built in 1988, VPH even served as the chapel. Chapel services were held in the gym on the second floor, in what is now the office area for the education department.
Students have often had to deal with construction noises in VPH during class time. Since the building’s completion in 1968, various remodel and renovation projects have taken place to keep the building updated and add new facilities as the college has expanded.
In the 90s, for instance, windows were added to the third floor. This renovation was also the one that brought about the suite-style faculty offices we have today, where faculty offices in many areas are grouped together. Other updates at this time included new lights, wall coverings, ceilings and floorings, as well as the sound-proofing of the classrooms that face Highway 10.
Even now, we’ve seen VPH go through it’s fair share of renovations. Most recently, the east side of the building was remodeled and updated, and labs were created on the third floor for the college’s new physician assistant graduate studies program. Also notable are the new, updated bathrooms on each floor.
Clearly, VPH’s construction and renovation history is as long as the list of departments it has housed over the years. Who knows what programs, majors, departments, projects and people it might become home to in the future.