Bethel College Administration Building

300 E 27th Street

North Newton, KS 67117

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The Administration Building is the first building constructed to house Bethel College, a Mennonite based school. Construction began in 1888 and was completed in 1893. It was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by Wichita architects Proudfoot and Bird. In the 1880s, many regional communities had either established an institution of higher education or were considering it. Newton was no different and in 1886, the Newton College Association was formed to complete that task. Four bids were submitted to locate sites for the potential college, but only two really stood out. One location was to the north, while the other was to the south. The Newton College Association met on April 4, 1887, to finalize the decision and selected the southern location. The Newton Daily Republican (April 5, 1887) reviewed the details included in the bid, which "contained an offer of 80 acres of land, 167 lots from Dexter's addition, 60 lots on Morse's addition, 50 lots in Ford's addition, 9 lots in Gardner & William's addition and $8,400 in cash." Those who favored the northern location were not deterred and set about finding a counter-offer. It had been known the Halstead Seminary, a Mennonite college in Halstead, was intended to be a temporary location and a proposal was prepared and submitted to the Mennonite Conference. The northern location offer included "subscriptions of land and city lots valued at $85,000, and money subscriptions to the amount of $15,000. The real estate, consisting of approximately 120 acres, was to be deeded to the college as soon as building operations began." The Mennonite Conference accepted the offer, which was announced in the Newton Daily Republican on April 30, 1887, in an article titled "NEWTON CARRIES OFF THE PRIZE - The Mennonite College of North America to be Located in the Leading City of the Great Southwest." Bethel College was chartered with the State of Kansas on May 23, 1887. The first board of directors was formed and included J. J. Krehbiel, Bernhard Warkentin, Rev. David Goerz, H. H. Ewert, D. C. Ruth, Abraham Quiring, C. R. McLain, J. M. Ragsdale and A. B. Gilbert. By October 1887, building plans by Proudfoot and Bird were accepted, and construction began in December. It was decided Bethel would not go into to debt during construction, and therefore, construction did not occur unless money was on hand to fund it. The basement was completed and the cornerstone laid in place a year later on October 12, 1888. Unfortunately, funding was slow in coming. The land donated in the agreement was valued at its 1887 valuation, which was highly overvalued as it was during Newton's real estate boom. When the boom busted, as early as 1889, land values plummeted. This resulted in the sales of lots that did not match the intended amount and funding for the construction fell short. The creative fundraising efforts of the Rev. David Goerz helped secure needed funds, and construction was completed in 1893. The building was dedicated on September 20, 1893, and opened the following day with the enrollment of 74 students. The road from groundbreaking to completion was a hard-won effort and the building is the heart of campus today. It also serves as a tribute to Goerz, his fellow board members, and their commitment to the completion of the building and the realization of a Mennonite institution of higher education for the region.

 

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