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Iowa History Daily: July 22 Iowa Soldiers' Orphapns' Home/UNI Old Main Fire

Iowa History Daily: On July 22, 1965, Old Main on the University of Northern Iowa campus burned down. The building served as home to the Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home and housed the first classes taught at UNI (then Iowa State Normal School).

Annie Whittenmeyer of Keokuk proved pivotal in helping establish a place for children orphaned by the American Civil War. Whittenmeyer, who served as a nurse in the war, remembered a wounded and dying man who asking "Oh, what will become of my children?" She assured the men that their children would be cared for. On October 7, 1863, a meeting was called in Muscatine, IA to figure out a way to support and educate the Iowa children orphaned by the war.

The Soldiers' Orphans Home was temporarily located in a three-story former hotel at Fifth and Main in Cedar Falls. Arthur Morrison served as the first superintendent, and by the end of 1865, there were 96 children living at the Home. The enrollment grew rapidly during the following year, and the need for a larger building became apparent. Local citizens provided a 40-acre tract of land southwest of town, while the state appropriated $25,000 for construction. The new Iowa Soldiers' Orphans Home building officially opened in 1869.

By 1875, as most of the residents grew into adulthood, officials decided to close the institution. In the following year it became the first classroom, administration and residence building of the new Iowa State Normal School, and came to be known as "Central Hall." It was located southwest of the Auditorium Building until fire destroyed the building in 1965. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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