Augustana's Old Main in 1900



    Pen and Ink Sketch with Watercolor - Erwin Weber - 1980


The campus in Rock Island, according to Glen E. Brolander, author of the book, An Historical Survey of the Campus of Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, Revised 1992, is the third location of Augustana College. It was founded by the Swedish immigrant pastor, Lars Paul Esbjörn in Chicago in 1860. Three years later the college moved to Paxton, Illinois. An ideal location for the college seemed to be the area near the juncture of the Mississippi River and the Rock Island Railroad since a number of immigrants were settling permanently in the Rock Island County and Henry County area. In 1873 almost ninety acres became available on the corner of 7th Avenue and 38th Street in Rock Island for $10,000. The first College building was erected and ready for occupancy when the Augustana College and Theological Seminary moved to Rock Island from Paxton in September 1875. The building housed the entire College program including classrooms, chapel, library, and residences for faculty and students.

Originally, the Board planned to erect four small buildings on the hillside of what was called Zion Hill, two for instruction and two for professors' residences. Due to maintenance and heating costs, the plan was changed so that the four buildings were brought into one main structure, built out of brick around a 40 x 40 foot tower designed in neo-classical style with Roman arches in the windows. The first floor contained the dining room, the second the chapel, the third the library and museum, the fourth a room used for musical rehearsal, and the top floor was for used storage, but some of it had to be converted for student rooms. At the very top of the tower was the bell. The steam boilers were under the ground floor.

Joined to the square tower were two wings giving access to the chapel on the second floor. The third and fourth floor of each wing were used for student housing, 24 rooms on each side. Faculty living quarters were located in the lower area of the west wing. Even President Hasselquist lived here at the beginning. In the lower portion of the east wing were five classrooms and a faculty room. In 1888, most of the academic functions, including the chapel and library, were transferred to the new building (Old Main) It was originally called Memorial Hall in memory of the Swedish immigrants who came to Illinois in the fall of 1849 and founded Augustana College a decade later in Chicago in 1860. The old main building continued to be used as a men's dormitory and dining room until it was razed in 1935.

After the opening of the college in 1875, three residence buildings became necessary. Two houses were constructed for the professors, one was a home for the president. The major addition between 1875 and 1900 was the construction of the present Old Main patterned after the main classroom building (without the tower) at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. The cornerstone was laid in November, 1884, and the dedication took place in June 1889. Special emphasis was placed on the classical style with it Roman arches, Greek columns at the main portal, classical gables and cornices. They represent a symbol of harmony and the classical ideals of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. The dome and portico are splendid examples of this classical style. They were completed in 1893.

My sketch of the two "Old Mains" is based on a postcard published around the turn of the 20th century. It is located in Special Collections, Augustana College Library, Rock Island, Illinois.