Orange City, Iowa – most students have heard legends about the tunnels from Van Peursem Hall to the chapel. And who hasn’t wondered about the history of some Northwestern buildings? Or hasn’t wished someone would have told them about a helpful resource before finding out the hard way.
We’ve taken student questions, researched and compiled our findings into a single article to help students get to know campus better and be privy to some of its secrets. It’s time to reveal some of Northwestern College’s best mysteries.
ID’s are confusing. Two students in the same class year can have ID numbers that are farther apart than the number of students that attend NW. For instance, two students might have applied at the same time, but one could have a six-digit ID number that starts with a three while the other student’s ID number starts with a one.
“If you are the child of an alumnus then the college is notified of your birth, and you get an ID number,” said Jeff Guthmiller, associate director of admissions. “So my children could get an ID number at 3 months, and the people in their grade who apply for college when they are 17 will have an ID number that is larger.”
Once students get an ID number, they will be in Northwestern’s system forever. Children of alumni who chose to go to a college other than NW will still be in the system.
Van Peursem Hall (VPH)
Van Peursem Hall is home to many mysterious areas. There are several seemingly random signs and a basement that few students are aware of.
A sign by room 313 in VPH reads “Area of Refuge.” This might seem strange to students and staff members who walk by because when most of us think of refuge, we picture a basement or a room with no windows.
“It is for people who are handicapped so the fire department or the emergency personnel know where to find them,” said Arlo Van Beek, the housekeeping supervisor.
Few students go into the basement of VPH. There are signs that say “Communications Department,” and it was here that the communication department used to reside before being moved to the third floor of VPH. The basement is now home to the translation and interpretation lab. It also houses some relics of the communication department.
“Northwestern used to have a radio station, but it was not broadcast,” Van Beek said. “They used to tape segments and play the tapes on different channels. They also edited tapes and video.”
Need a rescuer? Call the maintenance department.
“We jump-start cars, unlock cars if students’ keys get locked in their car, and we have even pulled people out of the snow,” Van Beek said.
If students ever find themselves in any of these positions, they should call the maintenance department at 712-707-7170 and talk to Julie Andersen, the maintenance office assistant, who will direct them to the person they need.
Tunnels and Basements
Most students on campus have heard the rumor of a tunnel leading from VPH to the chapel. Otherwise how would professors get to chapel so fast? Sadly, according to maintenance, there is no tunnel from VPH to the chapel. In fact, there is only one tunnel on campus that connects buildings.
“There is a tunnel from Bolks B to Bolks C, and it is a pipe tunnel only used for heating and air services,” Van Beek said.
Also, even though there is a rumor about a basement in Fern Smith Hall, such a place doesn’t exist. Of all the student residences Fern Smith Hall and West Hall don’t have basements. Newer buildings on campus deviate from this no-basement design.
“Stengenga Hall is the only dorm with a basement that isn’t used for anything special,” senior Mackenzie Larin said. “Coly and Hospers basements have living areas in them, and the North Suites has classrooms.”
Some of the history of NW is not well known by the student body. This might have something to do with the fact that historical knowledge is lost with turnover of students every four years.
Arlo Van Beek said an interesting piece of history is that some of the dorms that now house men used to have women living in them. West Hall, the basement of Colenbrander Hall and the now retired Heemstra Hall all housed women at one point. In the 2010-2011 school year, Stegenga Hall had one wing that housed boys while the college built the North Suites. At various times, cafeterias were in the basements of Heemstra and Colenbrander Halls.
Heemstra is now gone, but its legacy continues on the third floor of Colenbrander Hall. It was the first building torn down on NWC’s campus.
“Zwemer was the first building on campus,” Van Beek said. “It housed classes, the library was where admissions now is, and a professor even lived in the basement at one time because he had to keep the furnace going.”
Other departments have moved to new buildings since the founding of the college.
“The chapel used to be where the Learning Resource Center is now,” Van Beek said. “The theater building is where the old gym used to be. The maintence building was owned by Rural Electric before we moved in, and the maintence department was located in an old roller skating rink. The old art building is in the parking lot known as ‘hell’, and it was originally donated by Dr. Bushmer. Before it was an art building, it was a creamery. It has since been made into the wood shop.”
Students looking for more information on the history of NWC’s campus can check out the book “From Strength to Strength” in the Dutch Heritage room of Ramaker Library. It tells about the founding of NW through 1982.