Old Main Memories

Minnesota State Mankato’s campus may have moved up
the hill—but the memories of Lower Campus live on at Old Main.

Artist's sketch of Old Main

Mary Dooley knew as she walked down the hall that she was in familiar territory. Not necessarily because it looked the same—it certainly didn’t. The hallways were narrower, the walls had been painted and the décor was entirely different. But she knew as she approached Apartment 321 in Old Main Village, a senior living community in Mankato, that she had been there before.

“As the woman was leading me up here to show me the apartment, I said, ‘We’re right where I used to teach,’” Dooley says.

In fact, Apartment 321 was once the very classroom where Dooley, a Minnesota State Mankato geography professor from 1966 until 1990, had taught. “I realized it as soon as I walked in,” she says.

Since 1998, Dooley has lived in her former classroom. The area she once stood to teach is now where her dining-room table sits. The few steps that students once walked up and down to find their seats are now buried beneath the carpeted floor. She can point to her former offices, now other apartment units, and to the space she occupied as the Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs for one year on the first floor. She remembers the Pine Room, which was once the cafeteria and has now been split into apartments. And when she looks out over what is now a lush green courtyard, she remembers that an auditorium once stood in that space.

Although the interior bears little resemblance to what once served as the main campus for Mankato Normal School, Mankato State Teachers College and Mankato State College, former teachers, students and employees are still eager to find living arrangements in the renovated building. At least a dozen of the residents currently occupying Old Main’s 70 apartments have ties to the University.

And of course the college connection is a lovely selling point for those moving into Old Main. But once they get settled in, they make new memories.

“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it,” Dooley says. “It’s just home for me now.”