Van Meter Hall; A building housing the Office of Campus and Community events used as a performance hall and meeting space for large events

Item

Legacies Classification
Memorial Structure
Memorial Type
Named Building
Memorial Context
Memorialized Subject
Van Meter, Charles J.
Title
Van Meter Hall; A building housing the Office of Campus and Community events used as a performance hall and meeting space for large events
Background and Context
Van Meter Hall is a building on Western Kentucky University’s campus used for large meetings and various art performances. Designed by architect Brinton B. Davis, it was the first building constructed on the campus of Western Kentucky State Normal School and cost $147,000. It was intended to be used as a lecture hall and for administrative offices. Students also attended chapel in the building. Extra seating, new lights and curtains, more room for the business office, increased performance and public support spaces, air conditioning in offices, and a larger stage were added during minor renovations in 1954, 1957, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971. In 2008, at a cost of $18,230,000, it was renovated to improve lighting, acoustic upgrades, replace flooring, restore of the original chandeliers and crown molding, and add an electronic orchestra pit, an audio/visual area, a redesigned balcony, a new elevator, restrooms, dressing rooms and a green room. Van Meter Hall is the second building in Western Kentucky University’s history named after Charles J. Van Meter. Born in 1826 into a family of enslavers in Warren County, he managed his father’s enslaved labor camp. During the Civil War, he served the Confederate Army as a civilian contractor transporting provisions and mail. After the war, Van Meter was active in the Jefferson Davis Home Association, a Lost Cause organization seeking to memorialize Davis’ birthplace. After an 1899 fire, Van Meter’s financial contribution helped to construct “the Castle,” a castle-like building that housed the Southern Normal School. He was given the largely honorary title of Chancellor when Western Kentucky State Normal School opened in 1906 and in 1908 presented with a cane symbolizing how the school had leaned on him. When Western moved to the top of Vinegar Hill in 1911, it named the auditorium in the newly constructed building after him. In 1968, the Board of Regents officially named the building, not merely the performance hall, in his honor, noting his financial gift of $5,000 “at the beginning of Western’s life as a public institution.” When Van Meter died in 1913, the school’s President, Henry Hardin Cherry, served as a pallbearer.
Physical Description
The two-story building is made of reinforced concrete, steel, and wood. It was designed to resemble the Acropolis’ Erechtheion Temple and includes beautifully fluted pilasters, a stained-glass skylight and French marble. It also features an auditorium that can seat 1,045.
Date created, installed or dedicated
1911
Location: Institution, City, State
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