It All Started with a Man Named Bob

Nazareth Hall Front

It All Started with a Man Named Bob

Built in 1927 as an all-boy Catholic boarding school.  However, it eventually started to evolve into a renowned military school for boys. Operating until 1982, the school stayed true to its Catholic roots and the nuns who served and taught here. Re-emerging with a new mission and purpose, Nazareth Hall was reborn…

“The year was 1990. We were on our weekly Sunday visit to Grand Rapids for Sunday brunch. As we passed by the abandoned Nazareth Hall I noticed a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. After years of being threatened by my parents that I would be sent to the boarding school, I entertained the idea of satisfying my curiosity by phoning the listed real estate company to arrange for a tour.

It was in the dead of winter and the realtor explained there were no utilities- water, heat, electricity or sewer. However, I met with the realtor, and with flashlight in hand started my exploration. I went immediately to the top floor to see what I was told about the nuns sleeping on stone beds, and I was quite disappointed when it was not this way.

Then I found out that nearly the entire contents were sold at an auction. We explored the five floors and 90,000 square feet in sub-freezing weather.

The Offer – How it Started

In a moment of “I don’t know what I’m doing” I made an offer to which the nuns accepted.

I purchased the Hall, Priest home, Grotto, and 35 acres. The realization set in a couple of days later what I had done.

The title changed on April 1st, 1991 (April Fools Day). I didn’t tell anyone until 6 months later- not even my wife. Now what do I do with it? Obviously, the taxes continued. The first adventure was with WCCA (Wood County Commission on Alcoholism). We spent $200,000 to bring power, water, sewer…etc to be able to house, feed, and council clients. These programs grew and grew.

In 1992 I was approached by a young lady asking to get married in the Chapel. We worked out a deal and made it happen. She was married here a little while later in the Chapel and had her reception in the Cadet West Ballroom. Nazareth Hall has been the host to more than 3000 weddings in its 30 years since I have owned the Hall. And was approaching more than 4000 students who attended in the 50+ years as a school.

A few years ago the battalion was passed to my son, whom possesses the same love and admiration for this great and historical building.  My commitment to the nuns has been fulfilled. I told them I will not change the building in any way and we would make it a very happy place.

Regrets- I didn’t tell my wife I started another company.”


-Big Bob

it started with bob


Cover photo by: Vibe Garden Images

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