Construction for Assembly Hall (now the Hemingway Western Studies Center) began on March 7, 1940. Ground-breaking coincided with the approval to use Works Progress Administration funds to finance the building.
Originally designed as a music hall, the building contained a stage and practice rooms. The building cost $88,675 to construct and used the same dark red Salt Lake brick as the Administration Building. The WPA also constructed the stone trim.
With the entry of the United States into World War II, the WPA funding terminated prior to the completion of Assembly Hall. Faculty members and college staff finished the construction by placing ceiling and trim work during the 1941 Christmas vacation. Curtains and other accessories were added in the spring and summer of 1942.
In 1953, the college received a pipe organ as a gift from Laura Moore Cunningham and placed it in Assembly Hall. The building also hosted all commencement ceremonies from 1942-1955, as well as many other events, including Foreign Language Night Plays, choir practice, and dances.
Starting in the 1960s, the building became known as the Auditorium or the Music Auditorium. On October 24, 1986, President John Keiser rededicated the building as the Hemingway Western Studies Center in honor of Ernest Hemingway.
The Hemingway Western Studies Center produced art shows, brings speakers to Boise, supports student research, and publishes books related to Idaho or the Intermountain West. The building previously housed the Idaho Center for the Book, the Idaho Film Collection, and the Hemingway Western Studies Series.
Written by Annika Severts, Spring 2018 intern