President forms committee to decide Old Main’s fate


This year, Augustana President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has commissioned a group, named the Old Main Working Group, to look into possible solutions for the future use of Old Main. The goal of the group is to objectively evaluate options, including both restoration and removal, and deliver a report to the Board of Trustees in September of 2019, analyzing all possibilities. 


Over the next year and a half, the working group will gather information, estimated costs and community input in order to present as full of a report as possible, providing realistic options the university could explore, rather than a recommendation. The group, co-led by Mike Flynn, director of development and Todd Williams from the Board of Trustees, convened for the first time on April 27.

“Our task is to come up with options, and we’ve already started coming up with some great ideas. Evaluating how great those ideas are will be another task as we go down the road,” said Flynn. “We’re really thinking outside the box here initially, that let’s not rule anything out because at first glance it sounds impossible. Let’s get all the ideas out on the table and then we’ll go through and sort those and widdle that down to what might be feasible.”

Old Main, originally built in 1889, is the oldest building on the Augustana campus and was first utilized by the Lutheran Normal School. Old Main became a part of Augustana College when the Lutheran Normal School merged with Augustana out of Canton in 1819 to create the first campus in Sioux Falls. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 70s, and in the mid-80s was deemed a non-functioning space on Augustana’s campus, operating as a storage facility since. 

With the tremendous growth Augustana has been experiencing and the ongoing housing, parking and general space issue on campus, this unused space on the Northeastern corner of campus will be an important point of discussion and consideration in future planning.

“For everyone on campus I think with larger classes we’re feeling a lot of crunch,” said Whitney Brown, associate director of Campus Life. “We’re just looking at how can we use this to benefit Old Main, the property that it’s on and the other interests and needs that campus has. Right now, we’re looking at how we can better utilize all the spaces that we have.”

 In the past, Old Main has served as a space for classrooms, dorms, a childcare center and even housed the Jabberwocky Cafe at one point. While still in the beginning stages of gathering information, the youngest member of the working group and Augustana alumna Liz Renner ‘17 believes considerating the needs of current and future students will be essential in the process.

“Students today have different wants and needs and it’s just a different campus than it was in the year 1900 or 1950 or even 1980,” Renner said. “If we were to restore the building we would need to think about things like technology and accessibility. Making sure that the needs of our generation come into the conversation is really important going forward because we want this to be a building that, if we restore it, we can keep using for generations to come.”

Student and community input will not only be encouraged by the Old Main Working Group, but actively incorporated into research plans and discussions.

“We want to and feel an obligation to seek input from the community, not only the Augustana community but the greater Sioux Falls and the regional community about their thought and ideas on Old Main, what Old Main means to them, what Old Main could become,” Flynn said. 

The group set up an email account to streamline the flow of outside input and ensure that it is seen and considered by the working group. Suggestions sent to the email address will be read aloud during group meetings. 

These suggestions will then be separated into three broad categories of possibilities for Old Main: restoration, removal and relocation, and demolition and construction. While the group is charged with objectively exploring and evaluating all of these options, the historical significance and meaning behind the building itself will not be forgotten.

 “[Old Main] represents not just the heritage of Augustana college but the heritage of Lutheran Normal School, and so that’s where it gets even beyond Augustana to the greater community—to the ELCA, and we want to consider all of those things,” Flynn said. “Its heritage, and our heritage is really the foundation for us as humans—where did we come from, where are we now and where are we going, and we have to consider the past in moving forward into the future.”


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