Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Main

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Institution Name: Augsburg College
Original/Historic Place Name: New Building, New Main, Main (various)
Location on Campus: SW corner of quad: 725 21st Ave. S.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1899-1901original construction Omeyer, Didrik Thorli,Martin
1980renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: limestone
Walls: brick veneer
Roof: slate
ca. 1901chapel
ca. 1901gymnasium
ca. 1901library
ca. 1901administration
1901-present (2007)classrooms
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (art studios)

Significance: architecture, education, religion
Landmark designation:
National RegisterNew Main, Augsburg Seminary (1983)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Built between 1899 and 1901, Augsburg's Old Main was the center of campus life for many decades. It largely replaced the campus's first main building (built 1872-1875), hence its original title of the "New Building" or "New Main." The northwest corner of the three-story structure contained a gym on the lower level and a chapel on the top floor, each 1.5 stories high. At this small church-related college, the chapel became a daily gathering place for the entire student body (including seminarians, college students, and academy students), together with the faculty and staff. Its extraordinary acoustics made it a popular place for choral rehearsals and musical performances.

The building was designed by the Norwegian-American architects Didrik Omeyer and Martin Thori, who also completed buildings for other Norwegian-American church-related institutions in the state. Their thoroughgoing appropriation of non-ethnic architecture, fully accepted by this Norwegian-American college, signaled an interest in an Americanization of space and appearance by the immigrant community. Maintaining a desire for perfect classical order and balance, the architects included a date as part of the façade. The Roman numerals MCM provided a completely balanced appearance but were without factual basis: due to a shortage of funds, no work took place on the building in 1900. It was completed in time for dedication on New Year's Day in 1902. Augsburg's seminary students made light of the decoration, however, suggesting that "MCM" stood for "Moses, Christ, and Mohammed."

Old Main underwent significant rehabilitation and restoration in 1980, and it was placed on the National Register in 1982.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Chrislock, Carl. From Fjord to Freeway; Augsburg College, 100 Years. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg College, 1969.

Kudzia, Camille, and Liz Holm. New Main [Augsburg College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1983.

Oftedal, Sven et al. Mindeblade om indvielsen af Augsburg Seminariums nye bygning, 1ste-3die Januar 1902/udgivet af Augsburg Seminariums Fakulter [Old Main dedication book]. Minneapolis, MN: Frikirkens Boghandels Trykkeri, 1902.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office
Government Offices

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Last update: November 2006