HULL—Western Christian High School is celebrating a century of providing a Christian secondary education.
The Hull school has 100 years of history to commemorate in 2019 and has scheduled an anniversary celebration for Friday-Sunday, Aug. 9-11.
Wes Fopma, Western Christian’s director of development and promotions, took some time to look back at the school’s history, which has happened inside physical facilities that have changed and evolved over time.
He noted that a new 56-page book about Western Christian’s history has been created and it is called “A Century of Learning . . . To Serve The King: 1919-2019.”
“We didn’t really have any documentation like that or anything that we’ve had available in the past,” Fopma said. “I know they did a couple of things for the 50th and the 75th, but nothing that really details the history of Western.”
According to Western Christian’s history book, the Christian secondary school came into existence in 1919 because of the need for teachers in the many Christian elementary schools in N’West Iowa.
Western Christian was located in Hull because the community was geographically centered among the many towns that possibly would send students to the Sioux County community for a Christian secondary education.
Western Academy was chosen for the school’s first name because there was a Christian secondary school in New Jersey called Eastern Christian Academy that had been started by Christian Reformed Church members. At the time, the Hull school was going to serve students in the United States’ western-most Christian Reformed churches.
The school’s first home in Hull was a three-story house — called “The Mansion” — situated near the current U.S. Post Office, which is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Main and Second streets.
Western Academy’s first graduating class had 11 students.
Enrollment increased rapidly during the next couple of years, leading to the need for a bigger school building.
A new school facility for Western Academy was built for about $64,000 in 1924.
The brick structure was constructed large enough that no additions were needed until 1950.
“That served them for a number of years,” Fopma said. “There are still remnants of it that are part of the building here. It was added on to over time.”
In 1934, after a 10-year period during which the school thrived, the Great Depression began to negatively affect Western Academy.
The Western Academy School Society came to an end in 1934 by court order because of bankruptcy.
A new society was formed that same year under the name of Western Christian High School.
Enrollment at the school reached 100 students in 1940. Western Christian’s enrollment then increased rapidly during the next decade.
‘One of the nicest’
The first expansion was finished in 1948 and included a library and science lab in large spaces that had never been completed on the third floor of the building.
Approximately $125,000 was spent in 1957 to add new parts to the school, such as a gymnasium, locker rooms, two classrooms and a stage. That gym later became Western Christian’s Event Center.
A music wing was completed in 1964 at the school for about $75,000. Considered modern at the time, the addition provided band and choir practice rooms and office space for the band and choir directors.
A new science wing at Western Christian was used for the first time in 1968. The addition, which had been constructed for approximately $175,000, offered a new complex of classrooms and equipment for labs.
“They basically added four classrooms specifically for the science department,” Fopma said.
An estimated $900,000 project to add a new gym to the school was finished in 1980. The gym still exists at Western Christian.
“It’s still one of the nicest facilities around, not only in northwest Iowa, but the state of Iowa, too, as far as a gymnasium,” Fopma said. “Different bleachers have been installed, but for the most part, it’s still the same.”
Ground was broken in May 1994 on an approximately $2 million project to renovate the 1924 school facility and build an addition on the south side of the structure.
“They added a large piece on the front,” Fopma said. “With the major renovation, they kind of built around that. They gutted three floors and kind of redid the whole interior of the building in that time frame.”
The addition to Western Christian featured a library/media center, kitchen, more classrooms and computer rooms, more cafeteria space and new office and lobby areas. The completed project was dedicated in September 1995.
A strength and conditioning room and a bus barn were added to the school’s campus in 2008 as part of an estimated $1 million project that also included maintenance on older areas of Western Christian.
The most recent renovation project at the school started during the spring of 2015 and was finished during the fall of 2016. The work at Western Christian cost about $7.5 million.
The project featured a complete renovation of the science and music wings and the relocation of the family and consumer sciences program to the school’s second floor to make room for an agriculture classroom and lab.
This also was when Western Christian’s old gym was converted into the Event Center, new administrative office space was constructed and the old office space was remodeled into a new entrance area, lobby and student lounge.
Needless to say, the school’s physical facilities have changed and evolved during the past 100 years in Hull, a Sioux County community of about 2,300.
“Those are pretty significant as far as facilities here at Western,” Fopma said.