Stairway to Heaven

Hidden Spaces

Photography director Mike Ekern crouched, climbed and crept around the St. Paul campus to capture some hidden treasures.

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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