Rolvaag house and Lutheran church to be removed from south side of campus

Augustana’s Heritage Park will start looking different this week. 

Heritage Park, located south of Bergsaker Hall along 33rd Street, was home to four historic structures that are being relocated to make room for the new Midco Hockey Arena.

Suzie O’Meara Hernes, senior director for community engagement & strategic partnerships, helped as a project facilitator and was tasked with finding new locations for all of the structures: a schoolhouse, a cabin, a church and a house.

The Berdahl-Rolvaag cabin moves from its original position to the parking lot. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

O’Meara Hernes worked with the Nordland Heritage Foundation, a group that oversees the “preservation and sharing” of the heritage houses, to determine locations for the buildings. She said the foundation is composed of descendants of the Berdahl-Rolvaag family and people connected to the Beaver Creek Lutheran Church. O’Meara Hernes coordinated with the foundation on the timing of the move, finding locations and other logistics.

The Rolvaag Writing Cabin is also located in Heritage Park. It is best known for being the house in which Ole Rolvaag wrote his famous novel Giants in the Earth.

“It’s of incredible literary historical significance,” Patrick Hicks, an English professor, said. “From a literary perspective, it’s probably the most valuable and noteworthy thing that the university has possession of.”

The Rolvaag Writing Cabin will remain on Augustana’s campus. O’Meara Hernes said that as of now, the plans are to relocate the cabin to just outside of the Fryxell Humanities Center. Although the cabin has been removed from its original location, reconstruction is on hold until winter weather clears so that a new foundation can be built. 

Hicks said he takes his creative writing courses to the cabin to talk about the environments writers create for themselves and about how Ole Rolvaag used the writing cabin to create his “landscape of literature.” He said that with its new, more central location, he will “without question” use it more than he has in the past. 

Two of four buildings, the church and the Eggers School House, are being relocated to the Meadow Barn at Country Orchard, a wedding and event venue located in Harrisburg. O’Meara Hernes said the church will be used to host wedding ceremonies and the schoolhouse will be repurposed into a bridal suite.

The Beaver Creek Lutheran Church will be moved to a wedding venue in Harrisburg. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

The home of the final structure, the Berdahl-Rolvaag house, is still being determined. After being removed, the house is sitting temporarily in the Bergsaker parking lot until a decision is made. 

The removal of the houses began this week, with construction on the new hockey arena beginning soon. O’Meara Hernes said that although full of changes, it has been exciting to see this project through.

“It’s fun progress,” O’Meara Hernes said. “Definitely a change, but I feel good about the preservation, and they’re going to good places.” 

SEE NEXT: Patrick Hicks explores ‘the stories that we bury’ in latest novel

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