St. Olaf College: As It Was

The tour, "As It Was," highlights several locations that at one time or another were integral to the college, even if for a short period. Today their historical significance is nearly forgotten or lost by most of the current community.

Interestingly, the local vintage baseball team, the Northfield Silver Stars, annually plays a game on the Fourth of July at nearly the same location as the original diamond. And for the past several decades, children have hunted for Easter eggs on the ski jump slope. Although the past is "lost" to most of those unaware, these sites continue to provide a use and new memories to many.

Viking Court

"Times have changed," declared the 1948 St. Olaf yearbook. With the post-World War II enrollment up from 100 to 900 men, both students and administration faced housing hardships. One solution was the creation in January 1947 of a…

Pop Hill Ski Jump

As the son of the chemistry department chair, Peter Agre spent many hours as a child in the 1950s playing on the St. Olaf College campus, including at the Pop Hill ski jump. Years later, Agre recounted those experiences: “In summer, we climbed the…

Pop Hill Caves

The “devil at your doorstep” was how the St. Olaf College administration viewed a small brewery and beer garden once located directly behind Thorson Hall. In 1885, Adolph Grafmueller purchased the land adjoining Manitou Heights. He enlarged a…

The Chemistry Shack (1919-1925)

The Manitou Messenger headline, "Test Tube Wielders Storm Chemistry Hut” (November 18, 1919), announced the latest and by far the quickest building ever erected on the St. Olaf College campus. The unpretentious wood-frame building, dubbed the Chem…

Ladies' Hall Elm

For several decades, the hollow elm near Ladies' Hall provided a wonderful photographic setting for the St. Olaf community. In the college's early years, the tree's cavity was burned to prevent further decay and was tended as an integral part of the…

Original Baseball Diamond (1887-1889)

From 1887 to 1889, the original baseball field, situated at the foot of the hill below Old Main on the southeast side, was far from ideal. A raised wooden sidewalk traversed the outfield for students to climb the hill. More than once the game was…

The St. Olaf Elm

Until its removal in 1921, the St. Olaf Elm stood for decades at the jog where West Third Street and Forest Avenue meet. Although long-gone, in its heyday, the elm was considered one of Northfield's most beloved trees, according to local author…