As Loras College continues its efforts to have its history recognized, officials also seek the public’s help in telling the school’s story.
School officials plan to apply for the campus to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. And as they wade through the history of the campus and its key buildings, they hope that people with ties to the college can help fill in some of the gaps.
“They may have some key bits that we may not have,” said Valorie Woerdehoff, Loras’ director of foundation and government support.
College officials will hold a public meeting next week to provide more information on the application process and to take input from people who want to contribute their own historical knowledge.
As part of the application process, Loras officials are creating a history of the campus and several key buildings, such as Hoffman Hall, Keane Hall and Christ the King Chapel.
Loras students and faculty are working on developing that history, but school officials might not know some of the anecdotal histories that surround the structures, Woerdehoff said. School officials want to hear those local stories from community members and to collect photos and documents as well.
“We wanted to get out of the Loras campus and bring this project to the Dubuque community because, obviously, Loras College is important to the Dubuque community as a whole,” said Duane Hagerty, president and CEO of Heritage Works, a Dubuque historical preservation nonprofit assisting with the Loras application.
Being placed on the National Register of Historic Places would be an important honorary distinction that Loras could use in its marketing, Hagerty said. It also could make available some grants and tax credits for qualifying buildings.
The distinction also would help show the historical significance of Loras, Iowa’s oldest college, Woerdehoff said. Having the designation could also boost tourism, she said.
“It’s a signal to folks that there’s some extra meaning,” she said. “There’s some things they might want to check out.”
The distinction would not impact Loras’ ability to make changes on campus, such as building, renovating and removing buildings, Woerdehoff said.
College officials plan to submit a preliminary application to the State Historical Society of Iowa by early April. The final application would go to the National Park Service in January 2019, Woerdehoff said.
If the designation is approved, Loras would be one of two Iowa colleges to have its entire campus on the register, according to a press release.