Palettes of Mankato Stone await the Anderson Student Center. Though supplied from a different vendor than the stone that covers older St. Thomas buildings, this limestone comes from the same region. (Photo by Mike Ekern '02)

Anderson Student Center: The signature St. Thomas look.

Editor’s note: This is the third in an occasional series of stories that Bulletin Today will publish until the opening of the Anderson Student Center in January 2012.

Much of the Anderson Student Center is encased in plastic these days. But peel back the plastic and you might be surprised at what you find. More than 30 masons and laborers are busy transforming the building’s generic exterior into one that is distinctly St. Thomas.

Watch the video to get an inside look at what it takes to create the signature St. Thomas look.

Whether you’re driving down Cretin Avenue in St. Paul or strolling along Harmon Place in Minneapolis, you know immediately when you’ve entered the vicinity of St. Thomas’ campus. The golden tone of Kasota stone – paired with the buildings’ Collegiate Gothic architectural style – create a signature look that is undeniable. It’s what sets a St. Thomas building apart from others in the neighborhood.

It’s no coincidence that many of the buildings on campus have taken on the signature look. Kasota stone, which comes from quarries near Mankato, appeared on campus for the first time when Aquinas Hall was completed in 1931.

Since then, the familiar rock has been used throughout the entire lower quad on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus and it distinguishes the downtown Minneapolis campus from the surrounding high-rises and department stores.

Today, the architectural tradition continues with the addition of the Anderson Student Center.

Opus masonry worker Steve Goerdt says the material is more fun to work with than traditional brick because of the unique patterns he creates with different shapes and sizes of stone.

While it may be fun to work with, installing Kasota stone is also serious business. Cold temperatures that arrive with the Minnesota winter require crews to find creative ways to help keep themselves and their materials warm.

Pallets of stone are stored below the building in what will become the new underground parking facility. When it’s brought up to the worksite, the stone enters a plastic tent that encases the scaffolding used by the masons and laborers. While the tent provides some protection for the workers from the cold outside conditions, it also serves a practical purpose for the integrity of the materials.

According to UST construction manager Jim Brummer, the plastic enclosure helps ensure the stonework cures properly to withstand the test of time. “The materials require a temperature above 40 degrees to keep the mortar from freezing so it can reach the strength we need for it to stay in place for the next hundred years.”

Given these conditions, the process of installing the stone is not something to be taken lightly – and neither is the enormous weight of the materials. According to Brummer, each week crews are putting up about 120,000 pounds of stone.

The masons are making daily progress – which is visible to passers-by on Summit Avenue. By the time the building is completed, it will be faced with 48,088 square feet of stone.

The exterior stone work on the Anderson Student Center is scheduled to be completed just as spring arrives.