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Zwemer Hall, built in 1894, was the first permanent building for the Northwestern Classical Academy. The Academy was established by area Dutch Reformed leaders to prepare students for college and ultimately for ministry in the Reformed Church in America. As the Academy grew, the curriculum expanded to embrace modern subjects such as education and business in addition to classical studies such as Latin. Soon Academy graduates included education and other professionals.
As new opportunities arose, the Board of Trustees approved new programs. In 1928 the academy added a junior college, and the junior college became a four-year teacher training college, with the third year beginning in 1959 and the fourth year in 1960. The spring of 1961 marked both the first graduating class of the four-year college and the last graduating class of the academy, which ceased operation. Four years later, the Board of Trustees approved the development of a liberal arts program at Northwestern. Since that time, the college has significantly developed its academic program; in 1970 the North Central Association granted the college full accreditation.
Through all of these transitions, Zwemer Hall has stood as the landmark of Northwestern. In the early 1990s, discussion began concerning more administrative space on campus. After much discussion, a decision was made to perform a complete renovation of Zwemer Hall. In 1996, a renovated Zwemer Hall became the administrative center for Northwestern College. During this process, it also was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.