In 1951, brothers Lloyd and Ward Kepp constructed Kepp Hall on the northwest corner of campus. For over thirty years, some of Northwestern’s faculty called Kepp their home; sharing the luxury of living on campus with their students.
By 1994, Kepp housed 11 apartments – each with their own living room, bedroom, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. NW even supplied the basic furnishings: a couch, chair, large desk, kitchen table and chairs, end table and lamp, bunk beds, two dressers, a fridge and a microwave. Interestingly, each apartment did not have the convenience of a stove, but a single stove was located in the laundry room for the residents to use.
By 1996, every apartment was bestowed a stove, and Kepp was converted into married student housing. Brad and Cheryl (Jamieson) Kehn were among the eight couples who lived in the Kepp apartments that first year.
“Before the Kepp Apartments, NW owned a few trailers on the edge of campus for married couples. We lived there our sophomore year (1995-1996), the first year we were married” Cheryl said. “They got rid of the trailers that year and opened up the Kepp Apartments in 1996. We lived in Kepp Apartments our junior and senior years of college (1996-1998).”
Married student housing was a community of itself, where it offered a space to do life with people on similar journeys.
“Not being from the area, the community of people in the apartments was an encouraging and great place to share with other people in the same stage of life” Cheryl said. “We didn’t feel distant from the activity of life of college, students and professors we had through our education.”
Brad and Cheryl thought it was the perfect place to live since they were both still going to college and finishing their degrees.
“It was like a dorm for married people,” Cheryl said. “We had several close friendships with other couples doing the same things as us. We all lived life together, went to classes and did our laundry in the basement in the shared washer and dryers”.
In 1999, the married housing at Kepp Apartments changed to campus housing due to overcrowding issues on campus.
In 2003, Kepp Hall housed the Campus Ministry Team in the apartments on the upper floor. In the summer of 2004, Kepp was fully converted into offices with surface renovations. After the renovation, Kepp housed career development, international student services, study abroad and campus ministry. The building changed its name from Center for Spiritual Formation and Vocation to the Franken Center for Faith, Learning and Living. When these departments moved to the newly remodeled Ramaker Center in 2014, it reverted to Kepp Hall.
In December of 2014, NW initiated their master plan by involving the Orange City community. Anyone from the community was able to attend and comment about what was great about campus, what was missing from campus and what they would like to see. Outcomes of the master plan included The Learning Commons, the upcoming Juffer Athletic Fieldhouse and even talk of a future center for science classrooms and laboratories were all included, as well as Kepp Hall.
The vision the community had for Kepp Hall was for another suite’s type building in its place.
Fast forward to 2022, Dean of Residence Life Marlon Haverdink is anticipating a smooth transition for the new dormitory in place of Kepp Hall.
“The new building will have three stories with six wings and will house roughly 150 women.” Haverdink said, “It will be a suite-style hall with two, two person rooms sharing a bathroom,” Haverdink even mentioned that the hall will include air-conditioning, which is a luxury that Fern cannot afford.
“We are hoping for this hall to open fall of 2024. Before the Colenbrander Hall men move to Fern Smith Hall, we will look into renovating the bathrooms, and look into some form of air-conditioning in the building as well,” Haverdink said.
While the demolition of Kepp Hall is inevitable, it is exciting to see the future of residence halls on campus.