Flashback • The College Inn Club
First student cooperative housing effort began in 1920
by Richard H. Harms, Archivist

The College Inn Club - click to enlarge image
The residents gather outside the College Inn during the winter of 1925-26. Herman Zoerman is in white.

Once the four-year baccalaureate degree program began at Calvin in 1920, the student body tried to become more like those at other colleges and universities by establishing student organizations. Since sororities and fraternities were not permitted at Calvin, various clubs were organized, usually consisting of students from the same discipline such as philosophy, pre-seminary and the like, which provided the clubs with ready identity.

An exception to this was the College Inn Club, organized in the fall of 1921, which specifically set about gaining 14-20 members with as diverse academic and geographical backgrounds as possible. In fact, their diversity became their identity.

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The idea for the organization apparently came from the desire of a group of male students to form a cooperative housing, boarding and fellowship arrangement several years before the college opened the first on-campus dormitory. These students worked out an arrangement to live in Herman Zoerman’s large white two-story house at 1058 Franklin Street, about two blocks west of the Franklin Campus. They also hired Zoerman as their manager and cook.

Initially, non-students were allowed to live in the house to help meet expenses. When the new on-campus dormitory was to open in 1924, it was assumed that there would no longer be a need for the College Inn Club.

The first president of the dorm was John H. De Groot, who had been president of the club the previous year, and two of the three floor directors in the dorm were former club officers. But in spite of the dorm’s opening, the club continued for several more years.

After the 1928-29 school year, Zoerman left Grand Rapids, and the College Inn Club hired “Ma” Swanson as the cook and manager. But the 1929-30 school year proved to be the last for the first student cooperative housing effort.


Note: The archives is eager to learn if any alumni have more information, photographs, recollections and memorabilia on the College Inn Club. Please contact the archives at 616-526-6916, or via e-mail at rharms@calvin.edu.