Ylvisaker Hall




Luther College

Building Name

Ylvisaker Hall

Year Built


Architectural Style

Midcentury Modern Streamline Style

This 4-story building was built as a men’s dorm housing 256 students, but now is co-ed and for first-year students. It is named for J. Wilhelm Ylvisaker, the college’s fifth president who served from 1948 to 1961. It was the first of three dorms “built to handle Luther’s explosive growth in the 1960s.” 16 Window replacements were installed in 2009, but the new ones closely approximate the originals. The style is streamline with minimal decoration. It has a reinforced concrete frame and is clad in red brick backed by concrete block. The design was by the firm of Altfillisch, Olson, Gray and Thompson, the local Decorah firm; the engineer was Harold E. Rucks of Dubuque, and the general contractor was the Black Hawk Construction Co. of Waterloo. The Altfillisch firm architect who signed the July 13, 1963 letter requesting construction bids was Roger Olson, and a 1964 newspaper photo of the cornerstone laying describes Olson as the person who “designed the building.” As with many of the dormitory buildings, the separate, one-story gathering space to the east is more distinctively styled than the main building.

The Luther College Archives website includes the following background on the building’s construction:

Ylvisaker Hall needed to house the entire male freshman class when it was built. The design called for a long three story building which included large study and recreation lounges on the east end of the building. The person put in charge of the building was W.O. Kalsow, the previous chief financial officer, who became the assistant vice president of plant expansion. In the summer of 1964 there was a frantic rush to finish the dormitory before freshman move in day in the fall. In order to finish, Kalsow insisted the contractors work on Labor Day. Not surprisingly, a union representative showed up to encourage workers to walk off the job, but Kaslow ordered the man off the campus as a trespasser. Work continued until the end of the day. On the day that the freshmen moved in, faculty members were carrying the mattresses in alongside the freshmen students.

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