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From William C. Page, Public Historian for the State Historical Society of Iowa:
Constructed in 1916-1917, Penn Hall was designed to house most of the departments of the college. The west wing held the Natural Sciences, the east wing the Arts and Humanities, and the central portion the administration. At the time it was built, the Society of Friends had already begun to experience a decline in membership. In short order, three other yearly meetings were set off from the Iowa Yearly Meeting. Although Penn drew many non-Quakers as students, members of the Society still made up the majority, and they also provided the bulk of the college's funds.
Designed by A. T. Simmons and influenced by the Prairie School style of architecture, the building's strong horizontal aspect dominates the campus, while the building's massive central tower acts as a focus for the entire quadrangle. Stone trim work and a low pitched roof emphasize the structure's horizontality. In contrast, the building's central entrance and two secondary entrances are framed by vertical masses, where the Prairie School influence is particularly pronounced. Protruding from the facades, the entrances feature windows set between brick columns surmounted by stone capitals, horizontal trim work, and name plaques. A large parapet capped with stone copping stands atop the central entrance, and dormer windows are situated atop the secondary entrances. The use of industrial style, metal windows is an influence of the Commercial style of architecture.
The central tower of Penn Hall is particularly significant. It calls attention to Simmons' fascination with projecting entrances and the use of high parapets to accent them. It conveys a tower-like effect to the composition, which is further emphasized by the insertion of the plaque reading "Penn." The effect of the contrast between the dark red brick and the stone trim work is particularly notable in the central entrance. This first floor is built entirely of stone, flanked by stone bulwarks. These elements are accented by stone posts, whose design is influenced by Japanese taste.
Penn Hall illustrates the importance of education to Friends and the historical linkages among the Quaker Colleges. In addition, it is significant historically because it calls attention to the changing patterns of Quaker settlement in Iowa. Finally, it is significant for the attention it calls to the continuing financial pressures on Penn College and to the College's reliance on support from the members of the Oskaloosa community.
Page, William C., and Joanne R. Walroth. Penn College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service,National Register report, 1996.