Old Main, photo submitted 1976
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Suomi College Building
601 Quincy Street, Suomi College campus, Hancock - Houghton County
Other Names Old Main
Property Type college building
Historic Use EDUCATION/college
Current Use EDUCATION/college
Style Romanesque
Architect/Builder C. Archibald Pearce
Narrative Description Suomi College began with the construction of its first building, now known as Old Main. Located on Quincy Street in Hancock, Old Main is a three-story Richardsonian Romanesque building with rough Portage Entry sandstone walls and a segmental arch main entrance. The building has a central tower and a large bay window above the central entrance.
Statement of Significance Completed in 1900 from plans by C. Archibald Pearce at a cost of $40,000, Old Main is the cornerstone building of Suomi College, the only institution of higher learning in the United States established by Finnish-Americans. The Finnish Lutheran Church of the Suomi Synod established the school to serve the large Finnish population in the Hancock mining area. Dormitories, classrooms, the chapel, and offices have been located in Old Main. Originally designed to be a multi-purpose building, it has required few alterations to the interior or exterior to accommodate its various uses. Currently, administrative offices occupy the building and it continues to dominate the campus.
Marker Name Suomi College/Old Main
Marker Text SUOMI COLLEGE In the 1880s large numbers of Finns immigrated to Hancock to labor in the copper and lumber industries. One immigrant, mission pastor J. K. Nikander of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, headquartered in Hancock, wanted to ensure seminary training in America. He had observed that Swedish and Finnish immigrants along the Delaware River did not train new ministers, and he feared a loss of Finnish identity. In 1896, Nikander founded Suomi College. The college's role was to preserve Finnish culture, train Lutheran ministers and teach English. During the 1920s Suomi became a liberal arts college. In 1958 the seminary separated from the college. Four years later the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America merged with other mainstream Lutheran churches. OLD MAIN Suomi College was founded in 1896 by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The cornerstone of Old Main, the first building erected at Suomi College, was laid on May 30, 1898. Jacobsville sandstone, quarried at the Portage Entry of the Keweenaw waterway, was brought here by barge, cut and used to construct Old Main. Dedicated on January 21, 1900, it contained a dormitory, kitchen, laundry, classrooms, offices, library, chapel and lounge. The burgeoning college quickly outgrew this building, and in 1901 a frame structure, housing a gym, meeting hall and music center was erected on an adjacent lot. The frame building was demolished when Nikander Hall, named for Suomi's founder, J. K. Nikander, was constructed in 1939. The hall was designed by the architectural firm of Saarinen and Swanson.
Period of Significance 1866-1900
Significant Date(s) 1900
Registry Type(s) 08/01/1991 Marker erected
01/13/1972 National Register listed
02/12/1959 State Register listed
Site ID# P23256