When St. Thomas’ state-of-the-art STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) complex opens in 2024, the final structure may include portions of Loras Hall salvaged during the demolition of the historic building.

The four-to-six-week process to demolish the 127-year-old structure began Monday following a full-building laser scan of the exterior and archival photography captured and collected for documentation purposes. Material samples that will be salvaged for potential reuse in the STEAM complex include portions of the west entry stone stair treads, 200 square feet of red brick and two structural cast iron columns.

Other building components – such as fire alarm systems, network equipment, exterior lights, etc. – were also salvaged for reuse prior to the start of the demolition process.

Loras Hall stairwell in February 2021.

The interior stairwell from the first floor of Loras Hall in St. Paul as seen in February 2021. (Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas)

Last month, the city council voted 6-1 to allow St. Thomas to proceed with demolishing the structure, originally built in 1894 as a dormitory on the former St. Paul Seminary campus, to make way for the new complex. St. Thomas acquired the building – designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert – in 1982. The university has hired design-build contractor McGough Construction to complete the demolition; St. Thomas expects the project and site cleanup to be completed by the end of March.

Construction of the state-of-the-art STEAM complex, which will adjoin O’Shaughnessy Science Hall on south campus, is expected to begin in spring 2022 with an anticipated January 2024 opening, contingent upon raising funds. In addition to instructional, performance and lab spaces that will be available to St. Thomas students, local K-12 schools will have access to community spaces through STEM and music partnerships. The greater St. Paul community will also have access to additional performance and gathering spaces.

“Today represents another step toward our goal of preparing a greater number of diverse STEAM leaders who collaborate with another, and often with industry, to create solutions that positively impact lives and lead to a more sustainable world. The proposed STEAM complex will meet critical university, societal and community needs, including increasing diversity in STEAM fields and promoting sustainability,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan.

Loras Hall most recently housed Music Department offices, administrative offices, an employee credit

The Loras Hall fourth floor hallway.

The fourth floor of Loras Hall in St. Paul as seen in February 2021. (Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas)

union and worship spaces. All departments and services have either been relocated or are in the process of being transitioned elsewhere throughout campus.

Prior to demolition, the university also removed all hazardous and regulated waste from the building. Other building materials will be recycled or responsibly disposed as required by regulatory agencies.

An excavator starts to demolish Loras Hall.

An excavator starts to demolish Loras Hall on Feb. 23, 2021. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

The option of demolishing Loras Hall was first raised in 2019 and plans were proposed last August. In September 2020, the university learned of revelations regarding Loras Hall’s namesake, Bishop Mathias Loras. While the university has moved to form a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming, the work of that committee is unrelated to the demolition of Loras Hall, and the committee’s work continues with a final proposal expected before the end of spring semester.

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