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Cowin-Larimore halls, built in 1909 and 1910, were two of four buildings comprising Wesley College, a Methodist institution affiliated with the University of North Dakota in the early 20th century. Larimore Hall acted primarily as a women’s dormitory while Corwin Hall housed faculty offices, classrooms, and a music recital hall. A. Wallace McRae, a New York architect, designed the buildings which stood on UND’s campus for a century before their destruction in the Summer of 2018. 


  • Aerial photo of Corwin-Larimore halls.
  • 1909 artist sketch of what Wesley College was planned to look. The buildings drawn in a shadowy white were buildings proposed to be built. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections UAP
  • Aerial photograph picturing the campus of the University of North Dakota. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections. UAP
  • Two students standing beside a tree with Corwin and Larimore halls in the background. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, University of North Dakota. UAP28885.
  • Larimore dormitory students. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, University of North Dakota. UAP28920
  • Larimore students enjoying some downtime in the commons area with dormitory house-mother. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, University of North Dakota. UAP28928.
  • Larimore students showcasing dorm life of Wesley College. Photo courtesy of Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, University of North Dakota. UAP28946.
  • Photograph of the music recital room (2018). Unfortunately, there are no images of the recital room before immense changes reshaped the space for classroom use. Photo courtesy of Dr. William Caraher.
  • Fire alarm plans of Corwin-Larimore first floor.
  • Fire alarm plans of Corwin-Larimore second floor.
  • Fire alarm plans of Corwin-Larimore third floor including the large room on the right-hand side where the music hall was located.
  • Fire alarm plans of Corwin-Larimore fourth floor which housed the Psychology department's research spaces.

The story of Wesley College truly begins in 1899 when Edward Robertson was elected president of Red River Valley University in Wahpeton, North Dakota. There was concern about the location of Red River Valley University, and some thought a move was necessary to the institution's prolonged success.1 Luckily, UND president Webster Merrifield discussed plans for Red River’s future at UND during a meeting of the State Educational Association, letting Robertson know that “this is where you belong.”2 After a few years of deliberation, Merrifield and Robertson actualized their ideas and moved Red River Valley University from Wahpeton to Grand Forks under the name Wesley College.

Wesley College was officially opened to students in the 1905-1906 school year.3 Larimore Hall was completed in 1909 and Corwin was completed in 1910 with the generous financial assistance of the Larimore family and  Mr. Corwin. Larimore hall acted as the institution’s primary dormitory for women and Corwin hall held spaces for classrooms, offices, and the Conservatory of Music located on the southern end of the third floor. Early on, Wesley College was restricted to courses on religion but that soon changed. The school eventually specialized in music, religious education, and elocution.4 Students of both Wesley College and UND were free to take courses from both institutions as part of their education cooperation. Their Beaux-arts exterior stood out on an overwhelmingly Gothic style campus.

Students entered Larimore through two arched doors accompanied by an elaborate wood framework on the first floor. The dorms themselves were double rooms to ensure healthy socializing among Wesley students.5 The double door hints to a constriction of traffic to keep men and women separate without a chaperone present, a sincere worry at the time of Wesley College’s initial construction. Corwin Hall housed the impressive music conservatory with an elegant domed recital hall furnished with a pipe organ. A civil agreement was made between UND and the new Wesley College to split the music program between the two institutions. UND faculty would teach classroom courses while Wesley faculty provided applied learning through music lessons.6 UND offered three-year degrees in music education, whereas the Wesley Conservatory offered three performance degrees. 

As with many young institutions, Wesley College had its fair share of hard times. Edward Robertson, Wesley College president, struggled with finances from the onset of the institution’s opening as did many during the Great Depression and the North Dakota agricultural crisis. Wesley College furthermore struggled with enrollments after WWI, likely because of their distinctive programs and educational offerings.7 After years of financial difficulties, UND officially purchased Wesley College in 1965.8 

UND renovated the building's interior in ways that disguised its original design. A staircase door compromised the music hall acoustics, Larimore dormitories became almost unrecognizable after being transformed into middling offices and psychology research rooms, and mosaic floors were covered with monotonous carpeting. In effect, a desire for functionality over history and architecture diminished the unique features of Corwin-Larimore halls and Wesley College as a whole. UND slated the buildings for demolition after years of ‘deferred maintenance’ made them too expensive to keep. Wesley College’s decade on UND’s campus invokes a tension between preservation and progress. The historic buildings were demolished in the summer of 2018.


1 Henry, George A.. A Good Investment: the story of Wesley College and that of the mother institution - Red River Valley University - as well as the story of still earlier plans of the Methodist Church to promote educational work of college rank in North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND. University of North Dakota, 1948.

2 Henry, George A.. A Good Investment: the story of Wesley College and that of the mother institution - Red River Valley University - as well as the story of still earlier plans of the Methodist Church to promote educational work of college rank in North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND. University of North Dakota, 1948. 

3 Henry, George A.. A Good Investment: the story of Wesley College and that of the mother institution - Red River Valley University - as well as the story of still earlier plans of the Methodist Church to promote educational work of college rank in North Dakota. Grand Forks, ND. University of North Dakota, 1948. 

4 Caraher, Bill. "Welsey College Documentation Project: Hearing Corwin Hall." The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog). February 18, 2019. 
https://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/wesley-college-documentation-project-hearing-corwin-hall/

5 Caraher, Bill. "Living on Campus in Larimore Hall." The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog). April 18, 2019. 
https://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2019/04/18/living-on-campus-in-larimore-hall/

6 Ellingson, Sharon. "Music." UND Departmental Histories. Grand Forks, ND: University of North Dakota, UND Scholarly Commons, 1983.

7 Caraher, Bill. "Welsey College Documentation Project: Hearing Corwin Hall." The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog). February 18, 2019. 
https://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/wesley-college-documentation-project-hearing-corwin-hall/

8 Caraher, Bill. "Welsey College Documentation Project: Hearing Corwin Hall." The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World (blog). February 18, 2019. 
https://mediterraneanworld.wordpress.com/2019/02/18/wesley-college-documentation-project-hearing-corwin-hall/