University of Minnesota Duluth

 Office of the Chancellor Inauguration

Old Main

University of Minnesota Duluth

  • Founded in 1895 as the Duluth Normal School
  • 1905 Main Academic building constructed
  • 1921 Institution expands and becomes Duluth State Teachers College
  • 1947 College expands again to become the University of Minnesota Duluth

The arches of Old Main have stood for more than a century and are a testament to the thousand of individuals who have passed beneath them seeking higher education. Construction began on Old Main in 1898 when, as part of a state mandated expansion of the post secondary education system, the city of Duluth donated 6 acres of land to establish the Duluth Normal School. Designed by architects Emmet S. Palmer, Lucien P. Hall and William A Hunt, the Old Main building was well under construction when it was gutted by fire in February of 1901. Rising from the ashes, Old Main was built and housed its first class in 1902, consisting of 100 students led by only 10 faculty members.

The Normal School rapidly increased its numbers, offering a free education to those willing to work within the state school system for two years. The graduating class of 1903 consisted of seven students. However, the Normal School’s attendance expanded so rapidly, that in 1909 and 1915 east and west wings were added to the school to accommodate its blossoming student body. In 1927 Old Main’s auditorium was completed, marking the last major addition to the structure.

In 1921 the Duluth Normal School become the Duluth Teacher’s College, a predominately women’s university providing a four-year teaching education, up from the Duluth Normal School’s two years. The Duluth Teacher’s College continued in operation until 1947, when Old Main became the flagship facility of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Alumni remember the trek from Old Main, on 22nd and Fifth Street, up to the science building on the upper campus. They called it the Yukon Trail. Old Main housed administration offices, classrooms, library, performing space, artist studios, and auditoriums. At times, it even served as overflow housing. In 1985, however, due to budget cuts and the high costs associated with heating and maintaining the building, Old Main was officially vacated.

Sadly, on February 23, 1993, Old Main was destroyed by fire. Its remaining bricks were auctioned off for charity, a last act of service from a university landmark with a historic past. Today only the arches that formed its grand entryway remain in what is now a park.


Old Main Building

Arches with building still standing

Old Main as seen through some trees

Old Main Faculty

Normal School Students

Old Main Park

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Last modified on 02/08/11 03:26 PM
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