A Grand Hall — Built to Serve
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By Mike Greife
Built to serve the campus and the community as a venue for the performing arts and public forums, Hendricks Hall has served in a variety of roles since its dedication on Oct. 22, 1923. The classic proscenium stage has hosted performances by famous entertainers and UCM theatre students, while also serving as a dais for university presidents as they have delivered their annual welcome to students and faculty with the beginning of each new school year.
With the growth of Central Missouri State Teachers College in the post-World War I era, college administrators and the Board of Regents found a need for an auditorium that would serve for generations to come. With the appropriation of $150,000 in funding by the state legislature in September 1921, President E. L. Hendricks and the board acted quickly to make the new structure a reality. With the still-new, five-year-old Administration Building now the focal point of the campus, it made sense to attach Hendricks Hall to it, taking advantage of the vacant land to the east.
On Dec. 21 of the same year, the Board of Regents hired Kansas City architect Samuel Hitt to design and prepare working documents for construction, giving him a deadline of Feb. 17 to complete the final plans. Hitt delivered, and on May 5, the board accepted a bid of $140,000 from Marxer Construction Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, to build the new auditorium.
Marxer accepted the challenge of completing the building by the beginning of the 1923 fall term. The company did request an extension of the contract start date of May 15, 1922, in order to have materials delivered to the site in time.
The decision to build the auditorium gave new life to what had become a lingering effort to raise funds to purchase and install a pipe organ on campus in memory of those members of the campus community who had given their lives in World War I. By 1921 $1,327 had been collected, but it became apparent that there was no proper location on the campus to install the organ.
With the construction of the grand, new facility of Hendricks Hall, the organ would now have a home. The necessary funds were raised, and the organ was dedicated on Jan. 11, 1924, with a recital by Powell Weaver, the organist for the Grand Avenue Temple in Kansas City.
The new auditorium, yet unnamed, was dedicated only two months shy of the original completion date. In 1933, the Board of Regents approved the naming of the auditorium in honor of President E. L. Hendricks.
Throughout the generations, the function of Hendricks Hall has changed only slightly with the arrival of new venues. The construction of Hart Recital Hall in the Utt Music Building in 1959, named after department chair emeritus Ralph Hart, provided a new, more intimate venue for many of the Department of Music performances. Department of Theatre performances found their own home in 1971 with the construction of the university theatre, which was dedicated as the James L. Highlander Theatre in 1992 in honor of the emeritus department chair.
With the development of the new strategic plan for the UCM campus in 2012, Hendricks Hall has become a focal point of the desire to develop a new performing arts venue for the university and surrounding area. Future plans call for the renovation of both Hendricks Hall and Hart Recital Hall into state-of-the-art facilities that will showcase UCM's outstanding student talent, giving renewed life to a UCM landmark.