Christ builds a house of living stones; we are his own habitation;
he fills our hearts, his humble thrones, granting us life and salvation.
Where two or three will seek his face, he in their midst will show his grace,
blessings upon them bestowing. -Built on a Rock, #652

For 100 years, the Wartburg Castle (Dubuque, IA) has been home to students, staff, faculty, and a whole host of others. It has been and continues to be a blessing to live, work, and study in such a magnificent building.  We are deeply grateful for members of the Dubuque community who gave the land and members of the church – congregations and individuals – who provided the resources to build the beautiful structure.  We give God thanks for all of those who have cleaned and cared for these buildings over the years.

As we celebrate 100 years of the Castle this fall, we celebrate the life lived within the walls, the living stones that have gone forth from this place to serve the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know many of you reading this have fond memories of the castle, as I do.  And many of you are already generous supporters of the mission of Wartburg Theological Seminary.

Won’t you join me in the 100th anniversary year in giving an extra $100 to support the living stones that continue to be formed and sent for ministry?

In Christ’s name and service,

Louise Johnson Signature

Rev. Louise N. Johnson


Wartburg Theological Buildings and Construction; A Brief History

Cornerstone Dedication: November 10, 1914

Cornerstone contents: in a copper box were placed a Bible, English and German hymns, reports of the most recent Iowa Synod convention, a seminary catalog, copies of various church papers, a history of the Synod, as well as copies of the local newspapers – the Telegraph Herald and the Times Journal.

The principal speaker at the cornerstone laying was the Rev. F. Richter of Clinton. Excerpts from his speech follow:

“[I] thank the various congregations for their assistance and liberality in making this institution possible. Such an institution was the wish of the people and it is through them that we are able to erect such a handsome building…. Look back on the days of Luther [when] there were no schools or institutions to speak of…. From the old frame buildings we have been able to step higher. Now we find ourselves again living in the stone-age. This institution … is being constructed on practically an everlasting foundation….”

Architectural Firm: Perkins, Fellows and Hamilton of Chicago, IL.

Architect: Mr. William K. Fellows of Perkins Fellows and Hamilton. Dubuque Times Journal, September 10, 1916, p. 10.

Construction firm: E. P. Strandberg Company of Chicago.

Stained glass windows in the chapel: artisans employed by the Vangerichten Glass Company of Columbus, Ohio. The large glass window at the north end of the chapel is a memorial to Professor Gottfried Fritschel.  Dubuque Times Journal, September 10, 1916, p. 1

Original Bennett organ and the four-sided tower clock donated by the Rev. John Adix of Andrew, Iowa, ibid, p.1

Fifty young men moved into the new buildings. Most were from congregations in the Synod, as the influx of students from Germany had ended.

Additional notes pertinent to the 1916 building design: The first sketch showed a typical early 20th century red brick building with classrooms offices and chapel on the first floor and dormitories on the floors above.  It is reported that Herman Fritschel said: “For a Lutheran seminary by the name of Wartburg, you ought to be able to come up with a more appropriate plan than a red brick box.” Whether the architects actually sent someone to Eisenach, Germany to study the Wartburg Castle may be disputed, however the exact dimensions of one of several towers of the Eisenach Wartburg was incorporated into the Dubuque Wartburg tower. Life Together, p.22.

Subsequent major renovations to the 1916 construction:

1957-1958: Architects: Woodburn & O’Neil, Des Moines, IA.

The library was doubled in size and three classrooms were added. The Blair House apartments were also built. President: Alfred Ewald.

1981-1982: Rededication was October 21-22, 1982. Architects: Brown, Healey, Bock of Cedar Rapid, IA.

The total space in Fritschel was more than doubled and the Fritschel Auditorium was added. The library was expanded to more than twice its original size. President: William Weiblen.

1986: Denver Court duplexes dedicated. President: Roger Fjeld.

December 3, 1989: Dedication of stage one of the renovation of Loehe Chapel. Architect: Gordon Mills of Durrant Architects, Inc., Dubuque, Iowa. Liturgical Architect Consultant: Ed Sovik of Sovik Mathre Sathrum Quanbeck Schlink Edwins, Architects, of Northfield, MN. Chair of the Chapel Renovation Committee: Rev. Ralph Smith, Dean of the Chapel. Organ builder: Dobson Pipe Organs of Lake City, IA, Organ consultant: Roy Carroll, Dubuque, IA.

This took project place as a result of a gift from the estate of Vanetta Zummak. Two and a half years were spent developing a renovation plan that could be accomplished in stages, in which each stage could stand on its own even if subsequent stages were not realized. The first stage was completed with the installation of the Dobson organ and new seating. President: Roger Fjeld.

1995: Pulpit Rock apartments dedicated. President: Roger Fjeld.

November 3, 2001: Foundations for the Future Capital Campaign addition dedicated. Architects: Straka Johnson, Dubuque, IA. Construction firm: Conlon Construction Company, Dubuque, IA.

Renovations included major changes to the dormitories and Mendota. A major addition was built beside the refectory that included a new shop and kitchen, the Presidents’ Dining Room and Weiblen Commons. Geothermal heating and cooling was added in 2000-2001. President: Roger Fjeld.