Building NameC. K. Preus Gymnasium
Architectural StyleTudor Collegiate
Tour TypeLuther College Tour
Sited underneath the current Center for Faith and Life. Burned 1961.
Preus Gymnasium, the only building in the printed web brochure that is no longer extant, is included because of its importance to both Altfillisch’s career and to Luther College’s history. For Altfillisch, it was–along with his 1925 renovation of the Mott building at 101 W. Water–among his earliest major projects. Given the college’s defining Norwegian and Lutheran character during this period, it is perhaps surprising that Altfillisch–of German background and evidently not a church-goer–developed a forty-plus year association with the college.
For Preus Gymnasium, Altfillisch and Oscar Olson, Luther president only since 1921, travelled to many other campuses to gather ideas. A note on a project card for File #2501 says that “plans started Nov 1st, 1925, completed March 25th, 1926…. Construction started April 15th, 1926… Construction completed January 1927.”
Luther historian David T. Nelson writes in 1961, “Extremely well planned, it has served the college even in ways not originally contemplated.” Nelson notes that the building committee offered valuable suggestions, but that “it is generally agreed that the driving force was Olson, who with Charles H. Altfillisch, the architect, meticulously supervised every detail of the planning to get a structure that would serve as gymnasium, auditorium, and social center.” The building was large, of red brick and Bedford stone trim, and included a tower that, “dominating the campus, is architecturally harmonious and pleasing” (Nelson). The general contractor was A. R. Coffeen. Peter Johnson and Sons provided plumbing and heating, and a third Decorah firm, the Electric Service Company, provided the electrical work.
The November 2, 1961 accidental burning of Preus Gymnasium–following the burning of Main I in 1889 and of Main II in 1942–was a traumatic event still remembered by Decorah residents and Luther community members.
The above two items are found on the back of an unfinished Dec. 18, 1925 Altfillisch letter to the Pipe Organ Department of Lyon & Healy, Chicago. The jottings seem to be Altfillisch’s notes on possible sources for designs for Preus Gymnasium. Note the similarity between the sketch of the doorway of the Minneapolis YMCA and the final Preus Gymnasium windows. (This material was included among the Project Cards ca. 1921-28 found in the Altfillisch 801 Mound St. garage and now preserved in the Luther College Archives.)