Tales from the Archives: Summit Classroom Building

In 1957, the William Mitchell College of Law and the College of St. Thomas shared a similar dilemma. The newly formed William Mitchell, which taught its students in evening and weekend programs, needed a building to house its offices and classrooms. St. Thomas, on the other hand, faced a shortage of classrooms for their undergraduate daytime program.

After a bit of negotiation, the two schools came to a mutually beneficial agreement that solved their problems. The College of St. Thomas owned two plots of land on the south side of Summit Avenue. St. Thomas agreed to allow William Mitchell to construct a building on the site while keeping ownership of land underneath it. In return, St. Thomas was allowed to use the classrooms in the new building during the day at no cost. With both parties satisfied, Ellerbe and Company began construction and the William Mitchell College of Law building opened for classes at the beginning of the 1958 fall semester.

This arrangement worked well for both parties for almost 20 years. But by 1975, the law school’s enrollment had outgrown its space. The school decided it no longer wanted to rent additional classroom space in St. Thomas-owned buildings to accommodate the overflow. Instead, in 1976, William Mitchell bought the former Our Lady of Peace High School and moved down Summit Avenue to the school’s current location.

With several new and expanding programs of its own looking for space, St. Thomas bought the vacated building in 1977. In 1981, the building was renamed McNeely Hall in honor of Adelaide and Harry McNeely Sr. (the parents of St. Thomas Board of Trustee member Harry McNeely Jr.). The Graduate School of Business and its expanding MBA program was the first St. Thomas tenant of the building. The building stayed the base for the St. Paul programs in the College of Business for the next 20 years.

In 2006, the building was rechristened Summit Classroom Building after the opening of the current McNeely Hall. The School of Social Work moved from its former home in Loras Hall to become the anchor tenant of the building. The Justice and Peace Studies Program, the Office of Sustainability and the English Language Services program also found homes in the Summit Classroom Building.

Currently, the Summit Classroom Building is undergoing some remodeling to accommodate the new School of Nursing. When they School of Nursing moves in later this year, it will add another chapter to the building’s nearly 65-year history.