From the Archives: The many faces of Apollo Hall

Please note: This edition of “From the Archives” features a guest author. Stay tuned for a new edition of From the Archives with Byron Hanson in a later issue of Crescendo.

At the top of the Interlochen Bowl sits a small cottage that looks as though it was plucked out of the English countryside. Apollo Hall has one of the richest and most varied stories among Interlochen’s historic structures.

Although Apollo Hall currently serves as a welcome center, the structure has had numerous functions over the years. Its original purpose is perhaps the most unique.

In 1936, the National Music Camp began enrolling students who were interested in studying the accordion. The following year, the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company--whose products included accordions--donated $700 to the Camp for the construction of a building to house the new program.

George M. McConkey, who had previously designed the Interlochen Bowl for the Camp, was tapped to design the new building. McConkey’s design for the building, which features a stone base and a wooden upper structure, became a signature style for the Camp. Similar designs were used in the construction of the Fine Arts building, the former Harmony Hall and several practice facilities.

The building was dedicated in early August of 1937, although the exact date is hazy. Earl L. Hadley attended the dedication on the Company’s behalf. As planned, the building spent the first several years of its life housing accordion classes, and did double-duty as a location for saxophone sectionals.

Just five years later, in 1942, the accordion program was discontinued. This was due, in part, to the fact that the program had been created as a part of Joe Maddy’s experiments in orchestration. After the program’s first summer, Maddy wrote in the September 1936 edition of School Musician magazine that “Efforts to introduce the accordion into the symphony orchestra have failed…. Its greatest claim for popularity is that it is a portable ‘whole band’!” Ultimately, the program’s fate was sealed by World War II, which made procuring the Italian-made instruments very difficult.

After the demise of the accordion program, Apollo Hall was repurposed as a library for the University division. In 1949, it served as office space for publicity staff, concert management, stage crew and the program chairman. In 1954, it became a listening library containing 17 phonographs and dozens of records; it was repurposed as the Camp store in 1960. In 1966, it became the new Alumni Hospitality Center. Today, it is a welcome center for alumni and guests alike.

Visitors to Apollo Hall today can register, rest, chat with engagement staff and flip through old editions of the Arts Academy yearbook, D’Art. This summer, Apollo Hall celebrated its 80th anniversary with several small exhibitions of historic Camp photos and artifacts: “The Origins of Interlochen,” which featureed images and artifacts from the Camp’s earliest days; “Interlochen and the Presidency,” which celebrated the Fourth of July by remembering Interlochen’s interactions with previous Presidents of the United States; and  “A History of Les Preludes at Interlochen.”

On your next visit to campus, be sure to stop by Apollo Hall to learn more about Interlochen Arts Camp and this historic building.