On September 27, 1956, the iconic structure of Buena Vista College, "Old Main," was destroyed by fire. Not much was left of the building to salvage, except the cut-stone arch of the main doorway.
"We regret the passing of a building that for many years has housed a considerable portion of the activities of the College. A college, however, is much more than a building and so the students, faculty and staff have not seen fit to interrupt the normal routines necessary to fulfill the purposes of the College. We believe in the future of Buena Vista," Former BVC president, Jack Fisher said in September 1956.
On Wednesday night, 50 years to the night removed from the blaze, the towering arch atop the underground Forum building at BVU was rededicated. The arch was built around the stones preserved from Old Main.
"The arch has become a part of the tradition here at BVU. Freshmen pass through to begin here and seniors traverse through the arch again on graduation as a right of passage," President Moore said at the ceremony.
Students of the Alpha Psi Omega, theater Honor society, presented a history of Old Main, utilizing letters and reports originating throughout the history of the structure.
The performance began with the ground-breaking ceremony early in BVU's history, and and continued through the Great Depression and both World Wars. Finally, the dramatic readings relived accounts of the burning building.
"Momma, the fire stood out against the black sky and I could feel the heat against my window," a letter written by one witness related.
"I was woken up by the shouts outside my window and when I looked out I saw that Old Main was on fire," another letter read.
BVU Senior Ryan Knorr performed his original commemorative song, "Out of the Flames." Both Knorr and the actors received considerable applause the crown packed into the Grand Ballroom after threatening weather brought the ceremonies indoors.
A final salute and dedication to the arch took place with members of the university and Storm Lake communities. Dawn Prosser of the community of Storm Lake, Pam Dean of the staff, Mike Whitlatch of the faculty, Amy Jones of the Alumni and Heidi Stevens of the BVU student body, jointly toasted the rededication.