Gustafson Hall, April 2021
Varsity Bachelors Club House
Phi Delta Theta House
Backstory and Context
Gustafson Hall was originally built to be used by the Varsity Bachelors Club on the University of North Dakota campus. It was erected in 1902, the same year that the Varsity Bachelors Club (VBC) was founded, to be used as a house for VBC members. A winding staircase in the middle of the building goes up all three floors. There is a fireplace that starts in the basement and goes through every floor of the building. Formal parties were commonly held in this house during this time. During this time, the house was known simply as the VBC house. The founding member of VBC, Mr. William Lemke, would go on to become a North Dakota state representative. VBC was the first fraternity officially recognized by the University of North Dakota.
The Varsity Bachelors Club received a national charter from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity in 1913. This became the second fraternity on campus with a national charter. During the flu epidemic of 1918, the house became a temporary hospital. It is reported that twenty-nine students died on the third floor of the house during this time. For this reason, many believe the house to be haunted. After the flu epidemic, the house returned to its original use--housing the fraternity brothers of Phi Delta Theta until a new house was built. In spring 1979, the Phi Delta Theta fraternity members moved out of their original house to a new one on campus near the Wellness Center.
After Phi Delta Theta moved out of the house, the university worked on renovating the building. The renovation consisted mostly of updating the building and creating office spaces for the Continuing Education Department. The renovations were finished and the building was dedicated on May 8, 1980. It was then named Gustafson Hall after Dean Emeritus Bernhard G. Gustafson for his work reviving the Outreach Programs department (now the Office of Extended Learning). After serving as a professor of chemistry on campus, he was appointed director of the program in 1957, where he worked to create satellite campuses for the University of North Dakota. The most notable satellite campus is located in Williston, North Dakota (now Williston State College). He retired from his position as dean of the program in 1969 but continued his work as Development and Research coordinator for the Outreach Programs. He worked in this position until he retired from the university on July 1, 1974.
As of April 2021, the building sits empty. The Office of Extended Learning moved out during the summer and fall of 2019. However, the university is looking into renovating it to be a boutique hotel or for extended stay suites. There is no current timeline for these renovations.
The Dakotah. Grand Forks, North Dakota. 1910.
Gustafson, Ben G.. Boyd, Robert H.. UND Departmental Histories. Volume Department of Continuing Education. 2008.
Krier, Nancy. "Old Frat May Become Dorm." The Dakota Student (Grand Forks) February 22nd 1979.
Tweton, Jerome D.. Wilkins, Robert P.. A Century on the Northern Plains: the University of North Dakota at 100. 1983.
"Personal Communication with Thomas Bures." April 23rd 2021.
University of North Dakota. University Archives Photograph Collection, Accessed April 28th 2021. https://commons.und.edu/do/search/?q=gustafson%20hall&start=0&context=10774300&facet=.
UND Archives Photograph Collection, ID #UAP 4924
UND Archives Photograph Collection, ID #UAP 4925