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 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.
On May 19, 1889, fire struck the building and slowly, Main I burned. Many of the materials were able to be removed, however, and much of it was reused for the 2nd Main building. Additionally, about 6,000 volumes in the library were saved by the students. This specific photograph of the fire has notes written around the frame, written by future President of Luther College, Oscar L. Olson, who was a student at that time at the age of 17.