Luther College Moment in History #28

The idea of a gym was furnished by the administration of Oscar Olson who worked closely with architect Charles H. Altfillisch. They needed a structure that would serve the college not only as a gymnasium but also as an auditorium and social center. To match the rest of the campus at this time it was decided that the ediface would be of brick with Bedford stone trim. Athletics were on the rise after physical education was added as a course in 1889 and the ban of intercollegiate football was lifted in 1919. In order to raise funds, alumni and people in the community of Decorah were contacted for funds. The alumni and friends of Luther College raised $220,000. To help the Decorah Chamber of Commerce raised $26,000. Yet this still wasn't enough and an additional $100,000 was borrowed from the new endowment fund. Construction began in 1926 and began to shape a multi-functional building. The gymnasium contained a full basketball court, an indoor practice rink for track runners, a small turning room (gymnastics), full locker room facilities, an area open for a swimming pool, and art classrooms. On one side, the basement floor was kept as dirt and used by the baseball team for indoor practice. Also located in the building was the radio station KWLC. Offices were added because of the now rising need for full time coaches who had only been hesitantly hired previously due to the use of professors as coaches. Preus Gymnasium was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1926. In 1942, after Main II burned down, Preus Gymnasium was renovated to make up for the lost classroom space and soon became the center of campus. On November 2, 1961, a fire had begun backstage in the west end of Preus Gymnasium and despite the efforts of firefighters from Decorah, Waukon, Cresco, Ossian, and Calmar, the building burnt down through the night.


Moment 28