Lohrenz Building has served Tabor for 100 years

Today we celebrate 100 years of God’s faithfulness in using the Lohrenz Administration Building on our campus to prepare students for a life of learning, work and service for Christ and His kingdom.

Images of the original Tabor Building

102 years ago, on April 30, 1918, between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., the first and only Tabor College building caught fire. Within the hour, the entire building was reduced to ashes. In the 1923 yearbook, Professor Renetta Schultz described that morning: 

Original Tabor Building on fire on April 30th, 1918

“Tabor is burning!” went like a sharp arrow through the hearts of those, to whom Tabor means so much. Flames were coming through the roof before help was near. Apparently with electric speed, the fire rushed medley through the rooms, usurping foreign territory. The chemical laboratory responded with one explosion after another. The $500 piano gave but one low bass sound when it broke through the floor of the music room. The hand-painted pictures on the walls of the art room endured their fate patiently. The hundreds of volumes in the library in vain stretched out their pleading hands for help. Helplessly, with tear-dimmed eyes and bleeding hearts, faculty, students and friends saw their hope crumble into ashes. One loud horrible crash, the walls caved in, and the Tabor building was no more.”

Original Tabor Building on fire on April 30th, 1918

Two hours later, at 10:00 a.m. students, faculty, staff and friends gathered in the Mennonite Brethren Church for chapel exercises.  In the 1923 yearbook it was written: “Never were hearts more united than at that moment. Never was the Tabor Song sung with more feeling than that morning after the ‘trial by fire.’”

By 2:00 p.m. that day, community members and friends of the college agreed that “…Tabor had at least a thousand friends in Marion County who could each give a hundred dollars toward the erection of a bigger and better Tabor.” The next morning students and faculty raised an additional $10,000.

By 8:00 a.m. on May 2, salvaging forces were organized and began toiling in the ashes.

Friends of Tabor working to clean up and sort the ruble.

The building committee hired architect William Mampe of Kansas City to design a fire-proof structure that was 132 feet long, 96 feet wide and three stories tall. 

On May 20, 1919, building operations began and over the next 11 months the building we now know as the Lohrenz Administration was built.

Construction of the Lohrenz Administration Building

On April 30, 1920, students, faculty and staff paused from classwork held in various buildings around Hillsboro and moved in to the new building. 

In 1921, and for many years after, April 30 was known as “Tabor Day.” This day has been set aside as a memorial day for the school. “All work is laid aside and the day is spent in retrospection and in renewal of the appreciation of the interest that has made our school possible.”

In 2000, the building was renamed in honor of Tabor’s founding president, Dr. H.W. Lohrenz.

Founding President H.W. Lohrenz who served from 1908-1931.

Now, 100 years later, we invite you to pause and remember the work that the Lord has done to transform the lives of the people who studied and worked within its walls.

Dr. Frank Johnson writes, “From ashes, hope arose and Tabor overcame. It turns out that overcoming is part of our DNA. Please be encouraged as we, hopefully, begin to arise from this COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world. For much of the past century April 30 was an annual college holiday. Take a moment to celebrate ‘Tabor Day’ today.” 

Timeline of events of April 30th, 1918, published in the 1916-1920 yearbook.