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Old Main is the oldest extant building associated with the one hundred and twenty four year old history of Macalester College. Macalester College is the outgrowth of the Baldwin School of St. Paul, organized by the notable educator, author, and historian Edward D. Neill in 1853. In 1874, Charles Macalester of Philadelphia donated the Winslow House (razed ca. 1890) near the Falls of St. Anthony, with the understanding that the school would be developed into a college. The institution was named Macalester College in his honor. In 1883 a syndicate of trustees bought the present site on Snelling Avenue for the location of the campus.
Old Main, the oldest remaining building on campus, was built in 1885 and adjoined the original campus building. The building was completely renovated in 1993.
Old Main is the architectural focal point of the center of campus, and almost every student has had classes in the building.