Kansas Wesleyan’s Pioneer Hall was named to the National Register of Historic Places earlier this month. It becomes the 19th location in Saline County to earn the recognition, joining such places as the former post office building (now the Smoky Hill Museum), the Fox-Watson Theatre (now the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts) and the Masonic Temple (now The Temple) in Salina.
“We are proud to have been a consistent presence in Salina for 136 years,” said Dr. Matt Thompson, president of KWU. “This designation speaks to the resilience and staying power of Kansas Wesleyan in this community. Those who have passed through the doors of Pioneer Hall have often enhanced both Kansas Wesleyan and Salina. This university is indebted to the pioneers who came before us and invested in KWU. The Hall of the Pioneers remains a monument of appreciation to them.”
Excavation began for Pioneer Hall, KWU’s second administration building, in 1922. The project was finished in 1929 and given its formal name, The Hall of the Pioneers, to honor those in the city, state and region who gave of themselves to establish KWU. That included local professionals, who successfully executed a campaign to raise $50,000 toward the project’s completion. A donation of $25,000 by E.C. Sams, the then-president of JCPenney, helped finish the centerpiece of the building, Sams Chapel, which was named in honor of his parents.
“KWU has invested significantly in Pioneer Hall in the past several years to make sure it continues to be an excellent place to learn, work and serve students,” said Dr. Thompson. “This mindset will be enhanced by the $4.5 million renovation and expansion of Sams Chapel and the Music department in the coming year. KWU continues to grow and change. The heart and soul of our campus, Sams Chapel and Pioneer Hall, remain vibrant and active.”
The building is recognized as being an outstanding example of collegiate gothic architecture and as a representative of the work of renowned Wichita architect Lorentz Schmidt.