Main I was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1865 thanks to the fundraising of Synod President H. A. Preus. Originally the building was the only one on the campus ground and stood as the housing and classrooms for the entire college.
The Building Committee, originally under the leadership of Pastor Koren but later Professor Larsen, decided to use the clay found on campus for the brick structure. A kiln was built approximately 50 feet east of the north wing of the building while Griese and Weile, architects, were engaged. On June 30, 1864 the cornerstone was laid with a procession from the Decorah courthouse to the construction site. Under the cornerstone was laid a brief history of the Norwegian Synod and a prayer for the college.
To build Main I a vigorous fundraising was started by Synod President H. A. Preus. This presented several issues not the least the inflation and crisis caused by the Civil War. However, the first Luther College building fund had more than 9,300 subscribers in 1864 with an average subscription of over $16.
The basement contained a storeroom, two kitchens, a dining room, living quaters for the steward's family and other servants, and two washrooms for the students. On the first floor were living quarters for two married teachers, a single teacher, and a large study area. The second floor was designed with eight study and recitation rooms. The third floor had four sleeping rooms, for 30 students each, two hospital rooms, two study rooms, and a chapel. The attic could sleep 55 students in four large sleeping rooms.
When the building was dedicated in October of 1865, there was a grand celebration starting with a procession in the valley west of the Upper Iowa River. This was followed by the singing of two hymns and the dedicatory address by Pastor H. A. Preus. Pastor Koren, Professor Brauer of St. Louis (in German), Professor Larsen, and Professors Lange and Schmidt (in English) also gave addresses. Throughout were sung hymns until the closing prayer by Pastor Ottesen. After the ceremony a dinner was served behind the building.
Main I burned to the ground on May 19, 1889.
After the first fire, there was considerable debate over the future location of the college but it was eventually decided that Luther College would remain where it began. The decision had the provision that water mains were to extend from the city to the campus without expense to the college.
Parts of the foundations of Main I were still intact and therefore utilized in the 1890 construction of Main II. A. F. Gauger was engaged as the architect while O. K. Simmons of Red Wing, Minnesota undertook the supervision of the construction without pay. Lars Moen of Calmar, Iowa did the interior carpentry.
The total cost was $50,000, considerably less than the inflated cost of Main I.
The building had three full stories with a basement and an attic. The basement still housed the kitchen and dining room plus bathrooms, storerooms, and living quarters for the steward and servants. The library was housed in the south wing of the first floor with administrative offices on the rest of that floor. The second floor had classrooms and a chapel room. The third and fourth floors were study rooms and the attics were used as sleeping quarters.
Main II was dedicated on October 14, 1890 with 4,000 to 5,000 people present. Johan Th. Ylvisaker (class of 1877), then pastor of First Lutheran Church, Decorah, spoke the opening prayer. Other speakers were: J. A. Ottesen, L. S. Reque, A. K. Bailey, and Torger A. Torgerson. Hymns by Laur Larsen (class of 1886) were sung and special music was prepared by the Luren Singing Society of Decorah.
Fire destroyed Main II on May 31st, 1942 and would not be completely rebuilt until 1952.
Main III, or New Main, was began with the groundbreaking on Oct. 12, 1950 with the generous donations of students and alumni. The same ground was utilized in this final rebuilding.
The Luther College Alumni Association planned to raise $150,000 in pursuit of a New Main. By the end, they had pledges for over $171,000 plus another $40,000 from the businessmen in Decorah. For added support a student play based on the fire of Main II called "Dark Encounters" was directed by Bob Seegmiller. All the proceeds went to the funding for a new Main building. The final cost of the building was $613,000 with an additional $58,000 for furnishings.
Main III is a two wing structure with a center tower. There were 18 classrooms and 21 administrative offices placed in the two wings with 27 faculty offices located in the tower stories. On the top floor of the tower was a faculty lounge. This building has a different architectural style from the previous two Main buildings, instead using a more simplistic modern design.
The building was ready for occupancy in September of 1952. The foundation stone of Main II, with an outline of the building was placed in the wall next to the entrance. The keystone of Main I with the 1864 inscription was placed beside the cornerstone of the new building.
There has been no fire to plight the third Main building and it still stands in the same spot with small renovations every few years. It now houses the offices of the registrar, financial services, human resources, and financial aid, as well as a computer center, language laboratory, and classrooms and faculty offices for the English, religion, philosophy, and foreign language departments. Situated north of Loyalty Hall and south of the Dahl Centennial Union, Main III faces the flagpole and Koren Hall.