The land that Sunnyside was built on was purchased by Eli C. Dunning in 1852, the proprietor of the mill at Dunning's Spring. In 1855, Joseph Gibbons purchased a piece of the land and then sold about 4 acres of it one year later to Ebenezer Baldwin. Baldwin built the house that was later to be known as the Sunnyside building in 1857. 1

Throughout the next several years, the house and land was sold to Catherine Meacham in 1858. In 1872, the property was sold to Rev. Ove J. Hjort (pastor of the Paint Creek congregation) and was placed at the disposition of the college, due to Hjort's close ties with Luther College. Several Luther College faculty members lived in Sunnyside during this time, including Lyder Siewers who taught from 1863-1877, when he moved south of Decorah to the area known now as Siewers Spring (near today's Decorah Fish Hatchery) and served as editor of the popular Norwegian newspaper, the Decorah Posten.

After Siewers left, Andrew Veblen moved into Sunnyside and he taught at Luther from 1877 to 1881. His son, Oswald Veblen was born in Sunnyside on June 24, 1880, and went on to become a renowned mathematician and faculty member at Princeton.

In 1897, Rev. C. K. Preus and his wife Louise (Hjort) Preus purchased the Sunnyside property from the Hjort estate. The Preus family lived in the home while C. K. Preus joined the faculty in 1898 and was elected as the college's second president in 1902. In 1908, a piece of the property was sold to the Sperati family who built a home that is now known as the Sperati House.

In 1920, the family sold the property to Luther College. In the decades that followed, Sunnyside became the home to several students, academic departments, and organizations until the early 2000s. In 1926, the house was used for exhibiting artifacts in the Norwegian-American Museum collections under the curator Knut Gjerset. When co-education was introduced in 1936, Sunnyside became a women's dormitory, along with Campus House. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Sunnyside served as a music building, offering a place to teach piano and voice lessons. In the late 1960s, the building hosted a student-ran coffee shop called Etcetera. Following the demise of the coffee house, the history department moved into Sunnyside in 1970 where it stayed until 1976. The Upward Bound program moved in to the building in 1976 and in 1983, it was renovated to become the new home of the Black Student Union. In its last decades, Sunnyside was reverted back to music studios and also provided offices for emeriti faculty members. 2

When the college expanded to include the new Center for the Arts, it was proposed to move Sunnyside to a new site. However, in the spring of 2001, it was decided to demolish the historic home instead, due to the incurred heavy costs and expenses. A push to preserve the building resulted in a survey and mitigation report, but ultimate the building was demolished.

The new Center for the Arts building sits where the Sunnyside property was. It was dedicated in the Spring of 2003 and houses a coffee house called Sunnyside Cafe, in honor of the property that once was.


  1. Luther College Archives, RG04 Finance and Administration, Series 1 Building Files, Sub-series 7 Sunnyside
  2. Bunge, Wilfred F., Mary Lou Hull Mohr, and Dale Nimrod. 2011. Transformed by the journey: 150 years of Luther College in word and image. Decorah, Iowa: Luther College Press.