Powers Hall: Then and Now

Powers Hall, Central Michigan University

Powers Hall, Central Michigan University

By Jennifer Vannette

A new semester is upon us. Welcome back students and faculty. As most of you are aware, our building has undergone a rather long and arduous remodeling project. While this created many headaches for all those who needed to continue to use the building for work throughout the summer, the results have included more accessible restrooms, and I'm sure we will all be grateful in the long run. Offices were changed around a bit as well.

Original lobby to Powers Hall. Photo: Clarke Historical Library

Original lobby to Powers Hall. Photo: Clarke Historical Library

The remodel got me thinking a bit about the changes in the building over time, and how those who first used Powers Hall might recognize the outside of the building (that really hasn't changed), but they would not recognize the interior at all. Powers was built beginning in 1938 as a combination student union and men's residence hall. The project was funded by a Public Works Administration grant under Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. C. William Palmer of Detroit was the architect. The Clarke Historical Library notes: "The interior of the building was dramatically different than it is now. The lobby opened onto a grand staircase to the second floor. The first floor contained a cafeteria, men's lounge, and a game room. The second floor housed the women's lounge on the west end, a billiards room, and the grand ballroom which is still there. The men of Keeler [as the residence hall was known] were required to wear ties to dinner in the dining hall, which is now a classroom (room 140) in the back of the building. The west wing of the building on both the first and second floors housed the dormitory section."

The building was gutted in the 1960s and soundproofed to be refashioned as the music building. If you look outside in the courtyard, you can see the central planting bed is shaped like a grand piano, an echo of its past life.

Now, Powers Hall houses the History Department, the Leadership Institute, and the Honors Program. As we begin a new year of instruction in historical studies in an updated building, it's nice to ponder the historical nature of the building itself.