Wartburg Theological Seminary recently began the renovation of its main academic building, Fritschel Hall. The stone building was commissioned by the Iowa Synod of the Lutheran Church in 1914, with the building dedication taking place in 1916. Since original construction, the building experienced two major additions and renovations in 1956 and 1982. In the year 2000, Fritschel Hall was fitted with geothermal heating and cooling. Initial planning for the current renovation began in 2018 with an assessment process involving students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors. Straka Johnson Architects and Conlon Construction were major partners in the 2000 renovation and proved to be a natural fit for this latest renovation as well. We are blessed to have such fine businesses in the Dubuque community as construction partners.
Preliminary phasing work of the $7,900,000 renovation began in June 2022 after Wartburg’s Commencement ceremonies. The phasing work was important as it allowed the project to begin in full force in September after the first week of classes at Wartburg, known as Prolog Week. Prolog Week is a longstanding tradition that involves all students, residential and distance alike, to come to Dubuque for an intensive week of classes, daily worship and community-building. The phasing plan allowed Wartburg to use its two largest classrooms, located in Fritschel Hall, during this week. The renovation is expected to be complete in time for Prolog Week in the fall of 2023. The aggressive timeline is necessary for optimal student learning and continuity in Wartburg Theological Seminary operations.
The phasing work uncovered some of the original walls of the building, which serve as a time capsule of sorts. One special discovery is of the original Faculty Room. The uncovered walls and ceiling boast elaborate painting and intricate stenciling, with the upper border displaying words written in Greek, one of the languages seminary students traditionally learn. Wartburg’s Professor Troy Troftgruben translated the uncovered words as “Endurance, Humility, Thanksgiving, Peace, Obedience, Faith, Hope, Love and Joy.” Troftgruben describes these collective words as “virtues that reflect the character of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s attributes.”
Much has changed in higher education in the 40 years since the last major renovation, most notably how students access their education. In 1982, seminary education was entirely a residential experience, with all students and their families living on campus in Dubuque. In the early 2000s, Wartburg began experimenting with online education, offering a few classes per semester via asynchronous digital platforms. Today, Wartburg offers its accredited degrees fully online, with both asynchronous and hybrid synchronous options, while still also supporting a robust residential community. President Kristin Johnston Largen emphasizes, “Life Together is the hallmark of Wartburg Seminary’s Christian community. The renovations in Fritschel Hall will support all of our students in their different learning modalities for decades to come with a modern, redesigned library, renovated auditorium, and a new student services suite, among other updates. We can’t wait to unveil the new building next year, and we are grateful to our excellent partners at Straka and Conlon for their care with this project.”
The Fritschel Hall renovation is made possible through the generosity of our many donors whose gifts combine to ensure the project is fully funded without debt. Many naming and dedicating opportunities are available for the building. Click here to learn more about giving opportunities and the Lead Boldly initiative.