A source states that “Old Main” was the first building erected at Gustavus Adolphus College when its cornerstone was laid on August 12, 1875.Contracted to O. N. Ostrom and constructed from Kasota limestone, the total cost of the building was around $25,000. Old Main was completed in 1876 and dedicated on October 31 of that year. Originally referred to as the “School Building,” as more buildings were erected, it became known as the “Main Building” and by 1905, it became commonly referred to as "Old Main."
The building was heated by wood stoves and housed the entire college in the first years of the institution before other buildings were added. It originally contained several classrooms, sleeping quarters for students, faculty, and the president as well as a kitchen, dining room, chapel, library, and museum. Until 1920, it was tradition for seniors to gather on the building’s roof for a sunrise breakfast the morning of commencement.
On its 50th anniversary in 1926, Old Main underwent a renovation from funds provided by the Minnesota Conference. The 1998 tornado, which destroyed much of the Gustavus campus, resulted in the need to repair Old Main’s bell tower. Seven years later in 2005 another renovation was completed; the building now houses the Office of the Chaplains and the religion, political science, philosophy, and classics departments.