A New Chapter, Campus Buildings
Penn Hall was built between 1916 and 1917 to replace the Old Main building. Penn Hall was designed by Architect A. T. Simmons, with the design influenced by the Prairie School of architecture. The building has dark red rough brick covering the exterior with Bedford stone trim accents and strong horizontal lines with a low pitched roof. The central tower and the two secondary entrances that flank it protrude from the facade. Additional elements feature windows set between brick columns, surmounted by stone capitals, horizontal trim work and name plaques. The central portion of Penn Hall was designed to house the college administration. There is a stone plaque reading "Penn" at the top of the tower. It was difficult to find workers and materials to build Penn Hall due to World War I shortages.
Penn Hall housed the library on the east end of the third floor from the time the building was built until 1964 when the library's collection moved into Wilcox Library. The Library was comprised of two well lighted reading rooms which housed current magazines, reference books, used books of general interest and two stack rooms for books and periodicals. Penn Hall was not structurally designed to hold a library collection and suffered settling and structural damage as a result. The following is a description of the library from the 1919 student handbook, "The Library is a good working library containing several thousand volumes chosen by specialists who have secured the freshest and best that has been written in the various departments of knowledge", and from the 1925 student handbook, "The library welcomes you. By depositing daily, time for study and voluntary reading, you will accrue a principle of spiritual and mental enrichment which will pay compound interest in durable satisfaction".
Lewis Hall was constructed in 1916-1917. Stylistically, the building is influenced by the Prairie School of architecture. Notable features include the strong horizontal feeling of the building; the stone trim work emphasizing it and the low pitched roof. The interior of the building features several rooms with oak wainscoting and plaster cornices with plant material motifs and etched glass panes on the doorways. Employing a “remarkably modern” concept plan, the architect developed the idea of individual “cottages,” connected only on the lower two floors. The living areas have a central lounge or parlor equipped with a working fireplace surrounded by bedrooms. The four cottages were named in honor of four famous women, each of whom represented a different era of Quaker history: Margaret Fell, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Dyer, and Sybil Jones. Inscribed on the entrance of Lewis Hall is the quote, "The Measure of a People is its Estimate of Women."
Spencer Memorial Chapel was built in honor of Harry L. Spencer, who passed away on June 13th, 1913. Spencer held various positions in Oskaloosa and was a community leader. Construction of the chapel began in 1921 and was completed in 1922. The chapel is composed of red brick with a tile roof to portray colonial-type architecture, and is completely fireproof. It contains a beautiful audience room that can hold approximately 1000 people. It also contains a lower level with offices that were once used by various social and literary groups on campus. The cost of the project was $100,000. The dedication ceremony for Spencer Memorial Chapel took place February 18th, 1923.
The Heating Plant was constructed in 1916-1917. The smokestack was originally 146 feet high. This great height was necessary to create the tremendous draft required to pull air through the original three boilers, which had no blowers. Stylistically, the building is influenced by the Prairie School of architecture. Notable features include the extensive use of ribbon windows punctuated by brick pilasters, the low pitched roof, and the use of stone trim work in geometric designs. The building had industrial style metal windows, which remained in place until 2008. This building provided heat to Penn Hall, Lewis Hall and Spencer Chapel.
Mrs. S. C. Peasley, in 1945, donated the Gibbs house to the College for use as a men’s dormitory. The house was later adapted to serve as a fine arts facility and renamed Peasley-Griffith Hall in honor of Charles Leonard Griffith. In 1997, President Fallon and the Board of Trustees decided to demolish Peasley-Griffith Hall and the Fine Arts program was eliminated during this period.
Also in 1947, Mrs. S. C. Peasley donated funds to the College that allowed for the purchase of a three hundred acre farm located to the east of Lewis Hall. The farm was first leased for production and then operated as a dairy by the College until the early 1960s. At that time the farm land was developed for housing and the Oskaloosa Senior High School and Oskaloosa Junior High School. A small facility that was part of the Penn Dairy is now used for ceramics classes.
The gymnasium was built in 1907. Men and women could use the gym on separate days. Penn’s School of Music was located in the upper floor in 1911. This facility was used as a gym until 1946 when it was sold to the Christian Reformed Church for 16,500.00. The Church used the building for a parochial grade school.
The President’s Cottage is still standing on College Avenue but is no longer owned by William Penn University.