Smoky Valley Historical Association Lindsborg, KS 67456


Public Schools

LaVerne W. Soderstrom, or Sody as most folks in town affectionately called him, graduated from Bethany College in 1924. After teaching elsewhere for three years, Sody and his wife Amanda returned to the Smoky Valley when he was hired as principal of Lindsborg High School in 1927. In 1931 he was named superintendent of the Lindsborg school system, a position he held until his retirement in 1963.

Prior to Sody's retirement Lindsborg's new grade school building was dedicated as Soderstrom Elementary School on November 11, 1962 for his years of service educating multiple generations of Lindsborg public school students.

The first section of the Lindsborg School Building, located at the Washington and State Streets, was opened in August of 1882. Two additions were made to the building as the student enrollment grew. At one time grades 1 through 12 were housed here under one roof. This building was razed in 1961 to make way for Soderstrom Elementary School.

Located at Washington and Saline Streets, Lindsborg's first high school building was occupied in 1912. When the high school moved to a new building on western edge of town in 1953 this building became the junior high school. It was razed in 1962 when grades 5 through 8 were moved to the newly completed Soderstrom Elementary. The land where this building once stood is now the playground for Soderstrom.

As the Lindsborg public school system continued to grow the need for a new modern high school was recognized. Land near Madison and Pine Streets was obtained and this one-story building was erected, with the first classes being held in it in 1953. New features included an in-school lunch room, a spacious, well lit gymnasium, an auditorium, shop area, and up-to-date class rooms. This building now houses Smoky Valley Middle School.

Auditorium of Lindsborg's second High School

The entire Lindsborg High School student body is assembled in the auditorium in the mid-1950's, inside Lindsborg's second high school building. The new structure was first occupied in 1953, a few short years before this photo was taken. Many long-time LHS faculty and administrators can be seen in the back rows.

Bethany Academy School Building.

Bethany Academy was a private grade and high school run by the college

Bethany College

Bethany College founder Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson.

Sensing a need for higher education among the young people of the Smoky Valley, Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson held the first classes of what was to become Bethany College in the sanctuary of Bethany Church in October, 1881.

To accommodate its growing enrollment the college's 5-story Old Main building was first occupied in 1886. Old Main provided space for the college's administrative offices, classrooms, dining hall, chapel, and men's dormitory. To maintain proper decorum female students were housed in a separate dormitory building, Lane Hart Hall, located about a block from Old Main.

Old Main served the college until it was razed in 1968 to make room for today's Wallerstedt Learning Center.

Old Main served the college and its students between 1886 and 1968. The five story structure at one time was the tallest building between Kansas City and Denver.

Bethany College - First Football Team 1893. See the Sports page for more on Bethany College, public school, and town athletics.

Dr. Swensson wanted a larger building for the annual Messiah performances. The Ling Gymnasium was built entirely of donated wood and served not only as home of the Messiah Chorus, but was the college's athletic and physical education facility as well. Messiah performances were given in the building until the 1929 season. On a Sunday morning in March, 1946, Lindsborg's volunteer firemen were called out of church as the Ling Gym was on fire.

Even with help called in from neighboring towns the blaze overwhelmed the firefighters and the wooden structure quickly burned to the ground. Within a year Lindsborg had erected a water tower and purchased a second fire truck to be better prepared for such fires in the future.

The original wing of Lane Hart was built in 1883. The basement of the steam-heated building housed the dining hall and classrooms. Dormitory rooms for male students were provided on the first and second floors. When Old Main was completed in 1886 Lane Hart provided dormitory space for female students. The building was expanded and a third floor was added in 1899, providing housing for almost 90 women students, a public reception area (shown to the right), and 14 music practice rooms.

Lane Hart continued in use as a women's residence hall even after the demolition of Old Main in 1968, but was ultimately deemed unsafe without major renovations, closed, and torn down. It was located in the space between Alma Swensson Hall and Messiah Lutheran Church.

Presser Hall, home of the college's administrative offices, music department and the annual Messiah Festival since 1929. Prince Wilhelm of Sweden participated in the groundbreaking ceremonies. Here Presser is seen as the classic ivy-covered hall of the mid-1900's and as part of the Campus Green project in the 2000's.


After the death of college founder Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson in 1904, funds were raised for this statue which was sculpted in Italy. The life-sized statue was originally placed in front of Old Main, then moved to the west edge of campus, and finally to its current home, atop a fountain in front of Presser Hall at the south entrance.

Related Video:
Longtime Bethany College professor Dr. Emil Deere remembers Carl Aaron Swensson, founder of the college, in this 1959 audio recording

"A Swede is the best thing in Europe, an American is the best thing in the United States and a Swedish American Republican is the best thing in the world."
Carl Aaron Swensson to a Republican rally in Moline, Illinois.