Luther College Moment in History #49

Before the days of Preus Library, Koren Hall served as Luther College's library. The library was first proposed by students in 1909 and was followed closely by the acceptance of the Board of Regents, making the new library the next construction project for Luther College. The students of Luther College so desired a library building that when in 1909 they approached the Board of Regents, they proposed an offer to contribute through the making of concrete blocks. The entire student body was subsequently divided into squads, each with a leader, to mix and mold sand, mortar, and cement into the concrete blocks which make up the facade of Koren Hall. It is estimated that the students completed over 27,000 blocks. After the hard work of the students, the project languished due to problems with the church union in 1917. However, in 1919 the Board of Trustees came back to the library project with the help of Hans G. Stub (class of 1866) and Luther College President C. K. Preus. They were so successful that by Feb. 3, 1921 bids for the building of Koren Hall were in excess of $125,000. After the death of President Preus on May 28, 1921 his two sons, Ove J.H. and Johan C.K., completed the fund raising. The cornerstone was laid for the building on April, 18, 1921 and was dedicated not long after in October of the same year.

The building was named after Rev. U. V. Koren and his wife Elizabeth, who purchased the initial land for Luther College in Decorah. Originally, the library housed 36,000 bound volumes and pamphlets and could accommodate up to 100,000. The Reading Room (shown here) could accommodate 95 students. Rooms on the ground floor were originally set aside for museum use, but instead were used to store more stacks, as the library collection grew to 115,000 books, 1,000 Norwegian-American newspapers, 20,000 manuscripts, and a collection of Gausta paintings in 1961.