building structure . This addition increased the size of the gym and auditorium and added a study hall , agricultural classroom and shop , according to Boertje . One last addition was approved in 1954 to add three new classrooms to the second floor .
In 1959 , a $ 1 million bond vote was narrowly passed to construct a new $ 710,000 high school and $ 150,000 addition to the old Lincoln School . Once the new high school began serving students in 1962 , the building was transformed into a junior high school .
Boertje and Arvin Van Zante both attended the school in their
adolescence . They remember walking down the alley to Webster School for hot lunch and the highly-respected Keith Emmert , who taught eighth grade math and mechanical drawing .
Lynn Branderhorst , Pella native and city council member , fondly remembers the building ’ s sounds and smells as a former student herself .
“ Those were wonderful years in that building ,” she says . “ And I still remember the sound that the stairways made when you would walk up and down the wooden staircase , and the way that they were naturally worn by generations of students ’ footprints … I remember the smell ,
the beautiful smell of the old woodwork , and just the joyous years there of education .”
Gary Vermeer , founder and chairman of Vermeer Corporation , went to school there , along with his brothers . Stu Kuyper and Joan Kuyper Farver did , too .
“ It ’ s turned out all of the movers and shakers who have started Pella ,” Pati Van Zante says . “ When it was first built , they were building it because they had changed and improved education and wanted to be at the forefront going into the 20th century . We ’ d like to go into the 21st century .”
‘ A treasure from our past , a resource for our future ’
The Pella Community Center has been an integral part of the community for more than 100 years , and Branderhorst says anyone would be hard pressed to find a building in the community that has served the people of Pella more proudly .
“ That building has educated people . It has raised peoples ’ lives through counseling , through rehabilitation services , through services for our senior citizens ,” she says . “ It has instilled imagination in the minds of youth and adults through its art programs , and it ’ s also been the center of a lot of our rec programs as well .
“ So , in my mind , it has served our community proudly in the development of the mind , body and soul of people . I don ’ t know many other buildings that have done that in our community , and done it for such a long , distinguished period of time .”
Branderhorst has spearheaded efforts for the preservation of the Pella Community Center since the FPCC first presented their mission to city council in
2019 . That same year , the Pella Community Center hosted more than 33,000 people , plus 1,000 small group rentals , according to FPCC . The $ 5.5 million in funds the city has pledged to help renovate the building are helpful , but are estimated to only cover the costs to replace the HVAC and repair the plumbing and electrical , Arvin Van Zante says . Since the appointment of Mayor DeWaard ’ s ad-hoc committee , the city has issued an RFP , or request for proposal , to choose an architect for the building ’ s renovations .
Currently , the group is accepting donations for the Heart of Pella fund for renovations . Depending on the RFP and estimated costs , FPCC hopes to begin laying the groundwork to launch an additional fundraising campaign this summer for the remaining funds . Once they have the funds , their number one priority is to renovate the gym to reopen to the public .
“ That ’ s one big part of the building that just isn ’ t usable right now , and it would increase the number of people who use the community center exponentially ,” Boertje says .
While there ’ s much work to be done , FPCC and those who support their mission will continue to do what they can to keep the heart of Pella beating .
“ The community center is such a grand building , and it continues to be such a grand building ,” Branderhorst says . “ It brings joy , and that is what the heart does — it brings blood and joy to the human body , and I feel that this building brings joy to our community .”
To support the Heart of Pella fund , send a donation online at paypal . me / HeartofPella or mail a donation to Arvin Van Zante ,
1117 Big Rock Park Road , Pella , IA 50219 .
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