Skip navigation

Powers Hall and Keeler Union

Opened September 1939
Cost: $265,000
Capacity: 90 (when originally built)
PowersPowers Hall (Professor Powers is pictured below and to the left), which now houses the history department, has undergone several major changes since it was first built as the combination student union and first men's residence hall on campus. Although the outside looks nearly the same, the inside would be completely unrecognizable to its original inhabitants.
Groundbreaking for the new student union occurred on October 31, 1938 when President Warriner turned the first shovel of earth. The building was funded through a Public Works Administration Grant, one of the programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. The architect was C. William Palmer of Detroit. The cornerstone was laid in February 1939. Cornerstones ususally contain materials relating to the period in which the building is built. For some reason, among typical items like newspapers and school material, this cornerstone included a bottle filled with wheat, corn, and barley.
The building contained the Student Union in the wing facing the present-day Ronan Hall, as well as a 90-bed dormitory that is now known as the old section of Barnes Hall. The dorm wing opened in September of 1939, but the Union section was not ready until November. Despite the fact that it was the first and only men's dormitory on campus, it remained partially empty that first year. It was difficult for the college to convince men who were used to living off campus to move in and conform to the myriad regulations of dorm life. For those who did move in, room and board was $45 per semester.
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 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. This area was converted to offices and practice rooms when the Music program took over the building in 1961, and now houses the offices of the History Department.
Like Ronan Hall, portions of this building were turned over to Navy V-12 cadets during World War II. These cadets, who exceeded the original capacity of the building by housing 125 people, remained from 1942 until the program ended on July 1, 1944. During this time, the hall was also used as a rallying point for the Red Cross. In November of 1944, the hall was turned over to women residents for the first time. They remained until after the end of the war, and the male residents returned in March of 1946. Present-day students concerned with residence hall overcrowding should know that this is not a new phenomenon: in 1949, Keeler was at double capacity with 180 residents.
In 1951, a new residence hall wing was added. This was designed by Roger Allen and Associates of Grand Rapids, the architect responsible for most of the buildings on CMU's campus. On October 25, 1952, the entire residence hall area was renamed Charles C. Barnes Hall, thus ending that section's connection with Keeler.
PowersA 1960 "renovation" presided over by Roger Allen gutted the interior of the building. It was reconstructed and soundproofed for the arrival of the Music Department, which took over in 1961. The building was dedicated as Powers Music Building on March 31, 1966, for the former head of the music program at Central.
KeelerFred L. Keeler (to the right) came to central in 1895 as instructor and head of the Department of Science. Mr. Keeler held this position until he resigned to go to Lansing as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1908. Upon the resignation of L. L. Wright in 1913, he was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction and was elected to that office at each succeeding election for the remainder of his lifetime. At the time of his death, at the age of 46, in April, 1918, the Mt. Pleasant Times reported that, "probably no citizen who has lived here during the past twenty years was more widely known."