Stillness commands the library basement; however, on the other side of a locked, thick metal door, the silence is broken by the swish and swoosh of rushing water. Only a few people have ventured into this darkness and know the secret: It’s the pump room, diverting an underground stream.

St. Thomas has a few hidden spaces on campus stained glass blocked by walls, statues almost covered with brush and other hard-to-find or little-known places. Our photography director crouched, climbed and crept around the St. Paul campus to capture these hidden treasures.

O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library contains several staircases  complete with stained glass and ornate light fixtures  that have not been used since the 1991 renovation.


The pump room in the library sends water, which once formed a short-lived on-campus lake, into the city sewer system and out to the Mississippi River.


Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross stand at the bottom of the Grotto on south campus. Time and weather have rendered the set incomplete.


The north campus in St. Paul has just over a quarter mile of walkable steam tunnels that carry everything from natural gas, to electricity, to data, to chlorine for the swimming pool.

A second series of ladders finishes the journey started by the “Stairway to Heaven” at the top of this post. Looking down you can see the curve of the vaulted ceiling from the other side.  Almost 40 years ago, Paul Klauda climbed these same ladders and found an open light fixture at the end of the journey.

A photo posted by Paul Klauda (@pklauda) on


Special thanks to David Clysdale with Facilities Management for his time, his tours and his impressive set of keys.

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6 Responses

  1. Carrie Cochran

    I want to know why OSF Library doesn’t use the staircases with stained glass windows at the landings anymore – they’re so beautiful! We could turn each landing into a little study nook.

  2. Amy Cullen

    Awesome! Can we do a tour sometime?? :) Did you climb the ladder? I definitely want to see what’s at the top.

    • Mike Ekern '02

      No tour, but I DID add some photos of the stuff at the top. Not shown – intense heat.

  3. James Heaney

    I love these features. So much interesting stuff around this campus.

    Is it true that there are maintenance tunnels on South Campus? That’s one I’ve heard for years, but never had confirmed. I even had somebody tell me once there was a maintenance tunnel connecting the campuses, but I couldn’t believe it.

    • David

      There are steam/utility tunnels on the south campus. Not quite as walk-able as the north campus ones. There are no tunnels or other connections between the north and south campuses.

      David Clysdale
      UST Chief Engineer


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