Old Main (Augustana College)
3600 7th Avenue
Individual National Register Designation, 1975
Significance StatementFlagship building of Augustana College.
Architectural StyleRenaissance Revival
Construction Date1884-1893 (dedicated 1889)
Architect / BuilderHallberg, L.G.; Hammatt, E.S.
Augustana College Historical Highlights
Architectural ImportanceLarge-scale Renaissance Revival buildings are rare in the Quad Cities and Old Main is an important example of a style popular from the 1840s to the 1920s. Dedicated in 1889, the building was based on a similar structure at Sweden’s University of Uppsala, the alma mater of many of the early Augustana College faculty. A large central pediment that appears to be held up by four two-story tall pilasters dominates the beautifully balanced main entrance. Smaller pediments flank the ends of the symmetrical structure whose walls move from heavily textured stones at ground level to smooth masonry walls at the second and third floor levels. Topping Old Main is a dome whose design derives from 16th century Italian buildings. Note the balustrade or railing around the base, the columns separating tall narrow windows and the smaller cupola also held up by columns. Old Main’s monumental symmetry visually dominates the central campus area.
Old Main is considered to be the most notable building erected by Swedish immigrants to the United States. Its primary construction material is buff-colored dolomite limestone from quarries near LeClaire, Iowa, which also produced many of the building blocks for the historic factories of the Rock Island Arsenal. Cost of the building is estimated at $75,000, one-third of which was donated by one of the community’s early commercial and industrial giants, Philander Lathrop Cable. Cable Hall, on the second floor of Old Main, was restored in 1893 to provide a glimpse of what a 19th century classroom would look like.