'If These Walls Could Talk'

Last year for the first St. Thomas Heritage Week celebration, students in my Sacred Architecture course led tours of the chapels of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Mary. This year under the Heritage Week theme, "If These Walls Could Talk: From Dreams to Reality," students in my American Architecture course focused on campus planning. A…

Last year for the first St. Thomas Heritage Week celebration, students in my Sacred Architecture course led tours of the chapels of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Mary.

This year under the Heritage Week theme, "If These Walls Could Talk: From Dreams to Reality," students in my American Architecture course focused on campus planning. A look at the history of our campus designs reveals many dreams, some fulfilled and many never completed. The images that follow provide an understanding of how our physical identity has changed over the years.

Fifteen undergraduate students worked together to create illustrated presentations on the history of campus planning for two Heritage Week receptions. Art History graduate student Emily Koller '07 M.A. assisted the class in many aspects, including working with St. Thomas archivist Ann Kenne to finalize the illustrations. This active-learning component of the course allowed my students to "create" history rather than just read about it.

The undergraduates were Mike Burrill '07, Emily Dowd '07, Sean Ewen '07, Whitney Fistler '07, Justin Hall '06, Chaillee Hogan '05, Wakako Hora '05, Rachel Hoffman '08, Heather Johnson '06, Mesa Johnson '05, Adam Murfield '06, Emily Place '05, Emily Schupp '05 and Jason Schwietz '05.

St. Paul Campus from 1870 to 1900

Opening as an Industrial School for delinquent boys in 1876, the Old Administration Building saw St. Thomas through its first 46 years of development. The four-story red brick building, built with cutting-edge technology for its day, used steam for heat and provided hot and cold water to its residents. The building consisted of a chapel, classrooms, study halls, a kitchen, a dining hall, and dormitories. Eventually the needs of the college were no longer met by the overcrowded building and it was razed in 1931. Lake Mennith, created in 1888 by dredging a swampy area near the present-day site of the library, was used for recreational purposes. The college even had a working farm in its early years, kept up by the Gleason family, whose house can be seen on the left.

- By Emily Dowd, Rachel Hoffman and Mesa Johnson

The College of St. Thomas opened as a seminary in 1885, with the Old Administration Building as the first structure on campus. The building was finished off with a 90-foot tower from which Father James Keane, rector, used a telescope to watch for misbehaving students below. The old Administration Building housed the original chapel, first in the basement of the north wing and then on the entire third floor of the south wing where it was capable of seating 300 people. In 1891, the college built a wooden clapboard chapel in a style reminiscent of Gothic. Its eight lancet windows were replaced with stained glass in 1903. After the college outgrew the wooden chapel, it constructed a new chapel in 1917. Architect Emmanuel Masqueray, designer of the Cathedral in St. Paul, designed the chapel in a Renaissance revival style.

- By Emily Dowd, Rachel Hoffman and Mesa Johnson

St. Paul campus in the 1930s

The Liberal Arts Building, now Aquinas Hall, is the most visible legacy of the administration of the Holy Cross Fathers at St. Thomas and a major event in the development of the college. Designed by MaGinnis and Walsh of Boston, it was the first building erected in the Collegiate Gothic style with Mankato stone facings. Construction began in May 1931. At the time of this photograph, the student paper reported the completion of 12 Gothic windows, the first floor corridor, and steel joists for the second floor. Archbishop John Gregory Murray dedicated the $300,000 building on St. Thomas Day, March 7, 1932, praising the college as a center for Catholic culture.

- By Emily Koller

The Holy Cross fathers, a group of Notre Dame priests sent to St. Thomas to improve the college's academic reputation, proposed this plan for St. Thomas in 1931. Noted Catholic architects MaGinnis and Walsh replicated the Gothic style of the Notre Dame campus in their designs for St. Thomas. This style is evident in the administration building completed in 1932 (now known as Aquinas Hall) and the projected Gothic tower, which was never completed. Also of note is the athletic complex. College president Father Matthew Schumacher envisioned a stadium that would accommodate 50,000 spectators and attract national attention because of its large size and innovative retractable roof of steel and glass.

- By Chaillee Hogan, Heather Johnson and Adam Murfield

St. paul campus after World War II

This 1948 aerial view illustrates the effect the GI Bill had on the College of St. Thomas. To meet the rising demands for living accommodations from the swelling enrollment, the college purchased several temporary structures from the Federal Housing Authority, including three two-story barracks and 20 dwelling huts. These huts, with their wooden foundations and thin, drafty walls, soon became affectionately known as Tom Town. Tom Town is estimated to have housed 300 families between 1947 and 1961. Neighboring are the Collegiate Gothic structures with the newly constructed Albertus Magnus Science Hall (now the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts), the only building completed from the 1945 expansion plan.

- By Sean Ewen and Emily Place

As one resident of Tom Town recalls, the military surplus duplexes were regular little houses, plain of course, but not eyesores. They became starter homes for grateful faculty veterans and their young families during the postwar housing shortage. In 1947, monthly rent was $47.50 and it included water, electricity and gas for each two-bedroom unit. Purchasing oil for the large space heater between the kitchen and living room was the responsibility of the resident. The young wives sometimes struggled with the "primitive" housekeeping conditions and the inability to entertain guests. On special occasions, several families would host a dinner party together at a nearby restaurant, usually the "Lex."

- By Emily Koller

St. Paul campus from 1982 to 2005

A century after its founding in 1885, the University of St. Thomas was reunited with the St. Paul Seminary. The union of these two institutions marked the beginning of a plan to better unify the campus. Campus planning was focused around the goal of providing state-of-the-art facilities to better adapt to the changing needs of students and faculty, while at the same time maintaining a sense of place within the community. Here is a 1994 aerial view.

- By Justin Hall, Wakako Hora and Emily Schupp

After 20 years of planning, St. Thomas began work on the Summit Avenue project in September 2004. The end result of this effort will be realized in increased off-street parking, new apartments to facilitate an increasingly residential campus, two new academic buildings, and new Child Development Center. Here is a fall 2004 aerial view, taken as construction was beginning on a new 422-bed apartment residence and 355-space underground ramp east of the baseball field.

- By Justin Hall, Wakako Hora and Emily Schupp

Minneapolis campus from 1982 to 2005

The Robert Bruce Langdon residence was located 29 S. 10th St. from 1882 to 1911. The house and property covered the entire block and Langdon and his wife, Sarah, entertained prominent people there. The house was razed in 1920 and an automotive dealership stood on the site for many years, until Terrence Murphy Hall was built in 1992 beginning the development of the downtown Minneapolis campus.

St. Thomas opened its first Minneapolis campus building - Terrence Murphy Hall, on the upper right - in 1992, and today it is the home of the College of Business and the Graduate School of Professional Psychology. Opus Hall (across 10th Street, in the background) followed in 1999 for the School of Education, and the School of Law building (bottom left) opened in 2003. Schulze Hall (center) is under construction and will open in August for the newly formed School of Entrepreneurship. The Minneapolis campus has 4,000 students and nearly 500 faculty and staff.

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