Luther College

Building Name

Olson Hall

Year Built


Architectural Style

Midcentury Modern Streamline Style

Named for the third college president, Oscar L. Olson, the building was constructed as a men’s dormitory serving 233 students in triple and double rooms. At the time of Olson Hall’s construction most men lived in private homes off campus. In 2004, the west wing was converted to two-bedroom suites. Today the dorm houses both men and women students, first-year students in one wing and older students in the other. The building has the streamline, mid-century lines of modernist architecture devoid of ornamentation. It was designed by Charles Altfillisch and Associates, with Johnson Construction of Winona, Minnesota as the general contractor.

The original dorm room windows were configured with four horizontal panels, and all cranked out. These windows were common in the 1950s but are also commonly replaced because they leak generous amounts of air. Around 1970, these windows were replaced by a three-part window of one fixed panel, one that opened, and one solid filler panel. The central block of the building continues to have its large plate glass panels. The top floor lounge, which protrudes slightly above the roof line, has larger fixed windows also. The building is constructed of concrete block clad with red face-brick. The siting is notable as the building is positioned slightly downhill from the street, necessitating pedestrian bridges to cross from the sidewalk to the entrances, which are covered by flat canopies supported by brick walls with decorative voids that lack bricks. After documenting much of the information in these paragraphs, consultant Jan Olive Full concluded her comments with this summary:  “While the window replacements diminish the integrity of the building, the size, scale, and styling remain intact and allow the building to contribute to the Luther College Campus Historic District.”

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