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Iowa History Daily: October 11 - Waldorf's Dedication Day

Iowa History Daily: On October 11, 1903, a large crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of Waldorf College in Forest City. Fore-runner today’s Waldorf University, the college grew out of a local hotel war to offer educational opportunities for Iowans.

Born of Forest City’s ‘Great Hotel War’ which resulted when two different investment groups sought to construct luxury hotels in the seat of Winnebago County during 1900. When completed, the Waldorf Hotel and the Summit Hotel competed for visitors, and both hotels operated at a loss during the early months of 1901. By the summer, the hotel owners came together and reached an agreement where the Summit owners bought out the Waldorf investors and closed the hotel.

While the Summit operated until a fire destroyed most of the hotel during 1915, the Waldorf stood largely empty for over a year. In early 1903, local Lutheran minister C.S. Salveson brought together a group of local church leaders to purchase the Waldorf at a cost of $28,000 for the purpose of opening an educational institution to service the needs of North Iowa. Salveson named the school “Waldorf College” to harken back to the hotel war roots of the building, while also invoking the Forest City location with a name translating to “Forest Village (Wald Dorf) in Old High German.

Starting as an academy and business school, the college started to evolve a liberal arts influence by 1920. Operating for much of the 20th century as a private junior college, Waldorf expanded to offer four-year degrees during the 1990s. In the 2010s, Waldorf added Master’s degree programs and renamed to Waldorf University. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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