Park Region Luther College
Fergus Falls, Minnesota
E-Travel and Travel
Park Region College appears in old Mayville State yearbooks as a football and basketball opponent. When the college closed, many of the archives ended up at Concordia, so that was my first research stop. Later I drove down I-94 to Fergus Falls to look for a yearbook and to photograph the old building—still in use by Hillcrest Academy. Otter Tail County Museum had a good Park Region college collection, so I came away pleased.
Park Region Luther College was founded as an academy by the Norwegian Lutheran Synod in 1892, “offering high school courses in a Christian atmosphere.” Park Region began adding college-level courses around 1910, awarding its first Bachelor’s Degree in 1912. Until 1917 Park Region operated as a liberal arts college, reaching an enrollment of 248. However, in 1917 the synod moved collegiate programs and faculty to Concordia College in Moorhead, leaving Park Region as an academy and normal school. It was awarded junior college status in 1923. The Park Region catalog for 1928-29 lists five divisions: the Junior College, the Academy, the Normal Department, the School of Music and the School of Business. The academy was a college preparatory high school; the one-year normal school program led an elementary teaching certificate; the commercial course was also designed for one year. Enrollment again topped 200. But when the Depression came, the synod closed Park Region College in 1932.
Before the closure Park Region Luther made national news in 1931 for its decision to accept farm-grown grain as payment for tuition.
The Alpha Epsilon Sigma social fraternity began at Park Region Luther in 1917, moving then to Concordia with the merger.
Bricks and Mortar
The main building was built in 1901, containing classrooms and dormitory space for 200 students. A gymnasium was added in 1911. More classrooms were added in 1926. After the college closed, the building sat empty for three years. Since 1935 the campus has been owned by the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and operated as Hillcrest Academy, a boarding college prep high school. The distinctive “Old Castle” serves as a girl’s dormitory and also houses administrative offices. It was placed on the National Register in 1984.
Team name: Parkies (probably unofficial)
Colors: Orange and Black
In 1906 Park Region Luther became a member of the Red River Valley Athletic Association along with schools such as Concordia, North Dakota Agricultural College (North Dakota State), and Moorhead Normal (Minnesota State-Moorhead). Like many small colleges, Park Region Luther had difficulty in finding enough players to support a football program. At one point a student publication, The Moccasin, notes that the school had not had a football team for several years. The program was not helped by the death of a player in a game at Crookston, MN in 1929.
In 1931, the final year of existence, Park Region played a seven-game schedule. With a team composed of high school and junior college players, the Parkies lost three games to four-year colleges—Mayville Normal, Ellendale Normal, and Jamestown College—and two games to two-year schools—Wahpeton Science and Luther Seminary. They defeated a regional agricultural high school from Morris.
Park Region sometimes fielded baseball teams and often played intercollegiate basketball.
(Above) The photo of the 1921 team shows only 13 players—at least two of whom are clearly high school students. (Courtesy of Otter Tail
(Above) Main Building taken by author in 2009. The gymnasium is barely visible on the left.