History of Oak Grove

1906 — The Lutheran Free Church, a predecessor of today’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, agrees at its spring conference to start a high school for girls at a time when their mothers are not eligible to vote in the United States. Church leaders purchase the Barnes home, called “The Castle,” along the Red River of the North in Fargo. The city is chosen, in part, for its central location among church constituencies and its transportation access. Oak Grove Lutheran Ladies Seminary becomes reality on Nov. 1 with six faculty and classes for 24 young women in domestic studies, Norwegian, music and Bible study. The original graduates earn “normal” diplomas that prepare them to teach in elementary schools.

1907 — A carriage shed on the former Barnes property is moved to a new foundation near The Castle. The building — called North Hall — provides space for a chapel and classrooms on the main floor, a kitchen and dining hall in the basement, and residential rooms and faculty apartments on the upper floors.

1908 — Four young women comprise the first graduating class from Oak Grove Lutheran Ladies Seminary, completing their coursework in May.

1922 — Construction starts on the Main building after 10 years of fundraising and World War I. Students and teachers start using it a year later. It also provides living spaces for girls on the upper floors. The building today is Jackson Hall and houses classrooms and administrative offices.

1926 — Boys are enrolled for the incoming fall class, and the school becomes Oak Grove Seminary. Oak Grove achieves accreditation by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. Oak Grove has been accredited continuously since 1926 by North Central and its successor organizations. The current accreditation, affirmed by Cognia, runs through 2027.

1936 — The Castle, the original campus building, is demolished due to concerns about the foundation after flooding.

1947 — A new boys’ residence hall was finished in November on the west side of campus, housing 60 students. The new auditorium and gymnasium are completed the following January as part of the same building. The complex is named Fossum Hall in honor of Oak Grove’s longest-serving president.

1952 — The school name changes to Oak Grove Lutheran High School.

1962 — The Classroom-Administration Building, today’s Benson Hall, is completed on the north side of campus. It is used primarily for high school courses.

1963 — The Lutheran Free Church becomes part of the American Lutheran Church (ALC).

1966 — The city of Fargo closes North Terrace, a street formerly skirting the north side of campus. This enables Oak Grove to become a walking campus with sidewalks between buildings.

1973 — Today’s Darwin Gorder Gymnasium opens for physical education classes and home athletic events, thanks to efforts from Grover Club members.

1978 — School leaders add a junior high division for grades 7 and 8.

1985 — The Eid Center opens in December as the campus foodservice facility. The Jorgine Roen house, built in 1937, was sold and moved to provide space for the new building.

1988 — The American Lutheran Church (ALC) joins two similar synods to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran body in the Western Hemisphere. Oak Grove becomes the ELCA’s only residential high school.

1990 — School leaders and volunteers successfully complete a fundraising campaign that surpasses $2.8 million and enables leaders to retire debt.

1992 — The Oak Grove Lutheran School Foundation is established to hold endowed funds for the school’s benefit. The Foundation, at times, also has owned property on behalf of the school.

1997 — Oak Grove endures a historic Red River flood that changes the landscape of Fargo, Moorhead and many other communities. Jackson, Benson and Fossum Halls were impacted by high water. Several media outlets feature Oak Grove’s story, and donors support the school’s recovery effort into 1998.

1997 (fall) — Oak Grove adds sixth grade to the academic setting. The name changes to Oak Grove Lutheran School.

2000 — Oak Grove ends 96 years of students living on campus. Fewer than 20 students were living in residential facilities the previous academic year. Today, international students live with host families in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

2005 — Oak Grove opens its South Campus Elementary School along 32nd Avenue. Longtime supporter Monte Kjos and his son, Scott (class of 1996), oversee renovations of buildings they own and sell the property to Oak Grove with terms that fit for the school’s financial situation. Today, the Elementary School and the Kjos Early Learning Center serve approximately 400 students from age 3 through fifth grade.

2006 — Grovers celebrate a successful centennial capital campaign with three phases that update the North Campus. A concourse connects Gorder Gymnasium and a remodeled Jackson Hall. Fossum Hall, the boys’ residential building and auditorium, is demolished to enable construction of the Scheels Center for the Performing Arts, the Hektner Chapel and a technology classroom. An exhibit noting the importance of Fossum Hall is featured in the atrium of the Scheels Center. Funds also provide the seeds for a wellness center adjacent to Gorder Gymnasium.

2007 — The Classroom-Administration Building is renamed Arvid Benson Hall.

2023 — Oak Grove officially launches its Acorns to Oaks campaign, a comprehensive effort to raise $32 million for new construction, specific renovations, and endowed funds to support student and faculty engagement.

Information for the timeline comes from A Century in the Park: Oak Grove Lutheran School, written by the late historian Hiram Drache, and school archives.

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