Founded in the late 1830s, the Indiana Baptist Manual Labor Institute transitioned to being the four year liberal arts college known as Franklin College in 1844. Franklin College was the fifth college to be founded in the state of Indiana. According to John F. Cady’s "The Centennial History of Franklin College", “the curriculum… was adopted accorded with the standards of the best liberal arts colleges of the East. It consisted principally of courses in the classics, mathematics, and science.”
For over fifty years, practically all of the school’s activities took place in three joined halls collectively known as Old Main. The three halls were constructed in 1847, 1855, and 1888. In 1975, both Old Main and Franklin College’s Shirk Hall were placed on the National Register.