Main Building

Historical photos
Current (2007) photos (click on thumbnails for larger image):

Main Building    Main Building

  Main Building  
Top:  Cecilia Hall; East Entrance and Gertrude Hall; East Entrance where Teresa Hall (on left) meets Gertrude Hall (on right)
Bottom: Gertrude Hall,  rotunda; Teresa Hall, southwest facade; Teresa Hall, northwest facade, and part of the cloister walk

Photos by the Archivist

 
The Main Building has been a part of the college campus since its origins.  When the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict were allowed to begin an educational institution in St. Joseph in 1887, the campus for St. Benedict's Academy consisted solely of one building, St. Cecilia Hall.  Over the years, several additions were made to Cecelia Hall, and the entire complex came to be called the Main Building.  Until 1956, when the College expanded into the Mary Hall complex, all the the functions of the schools - high school (Academy) and College, classrooms and housing, food service and offices - were all located in this one building.  Gradually, other buildings were constructed on campus to meet more of the needs of the college, but the Main Building remains an important part of the college and its history.

The Main Building began as one building but grew over the decades as the community explanded.  The first building, St. Cecilia Hall, was designed by Gregory Steil and built from 1879 to 1882.  It had a stone foundation, brick and wood walls, and an asphalt roof.  On May 6, 1882, the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict and pupils of the Academy officially moved into St. Cecilia Hall.  Upon its completion, it served as a dual convent and academy for its thirty-six students.  At the time, it was the only finishing school between St. Paul, Minnesota and the Rocky Mountains.  The school drew pupils from all over the Midwest and Canada.  A majority of the students living in St. Cecilia Hall were from wealthy and influential families that valued a Christian education which included both intellectual and practical learning.  The northern part of Cecilia Hall was the convent, and housed a study hall and chapel on its second floor. The students of St. Benedict's Academy lived in the southern half of the building. 

Two additions were made to Cecilia Hall: St. Benedict Hall in 1882 on the north side and expanding toward the west, and then St. Scholastica in 1892, added onto the north end of St. Benedict Hall.  With the latter in between them, St. Scholastica was built to mimic St. Cecilia's original architectural design, bringing symmetry to the east facade of the three-building complex.  These additions were due to the increasing enrollment at the Academy and a growing community of sisters.

Photo: Rotunda in Teresa Hall

In 1899, the Sisters built a southern addition to Cecilia Hall to provide more space for the Sisters and Academy students.  George Bergmann constructed this new addition, called St. Gertrude Hall, using similar materials to Cecilia Hall. It was 3 ½ stories high and featured a four-story rounded corner tower with a conical roof.  In 1906, A.J. Blix designed and added seven dormers on the top floor of Gertrude to match the original gable dormers of the other buildings.  The basement of Gertrude contained the dining room, the first floor contained classrooms, and the third and fourth floors contained student dormitories.  The Academy and College used the dormitories until 1956, phasing them out as new dormitories (Aurora in 1956, Regina in 1963, and Corona in 1969) were built along with Mary Commons.   In 1979, a wood and brick semicircular entrance was added to the southeast corner.  Gradually, the use of Gertrude for classrooms decreased as more space was needed for administrative purposes, and by 2004, except for the fourth floor Nursing Department instructional spaces, Gertrude was used by the College for administrative and dining space only.

The fifth and newest wing of the Main Building is Teresa Hall (sometimes also referenced as St. Theresa Hall).  Built due to an expanding convent population and the anticipated establishment of the College, designer George Stauduhar angled St. Teresa Hall off of the southwest corner of Gertrude Hall.  Construction began in 1912, finishing in 1914.  During this construction, the Sacred Heart Chapel was built as well.  While built with the same materials as Saints Cecilia and Gertrude Halls, Teresa was still erected much faster due to its less complicated architecture.  It was immediately put to many uses.  The ground floor housed the gymnasium, and a candy store was located nearby which sold sweets from the convent bakery. The first floor contained a museum and art and sewing classrooms and a library.   The second floor of Teresa Hall contained an auditorium that also served as a study hall until 1964.  According to the 1926 college bulletin, this room had a motion picture machine, balopticon, stereopticon and grand piano.  The third and fourth floors, called the Rotunda, featured single and double rooms surrounding a large open gathering space underneath a glass skylight.

In 1961, a freestanding gymnasium was built on the southwest side of campus, which allowed the growing library collection to expand into the ground floor of Teresa Hall.  The College didn't replace the wooden floor of the gym, so one could still see the lines of the basketball court running under the bookstacks.  The College used this library until the 1986 opening of Clemens Library.

In 1989, Teresa was renovated by Grooters & Associates.  The first phase included renovations of the previously residential third and fourth floors, the Rotunda, into faculty offices.  A conference and seminar room also replaced two dorm rooms on the southwest end.  The second floor, which had been used as the library's AV/media center, became the college's business offices.  The second phase restored much of the first floor to preserve its original character.  Special events rooms maintained the ambience of the original library, with its fireside lounges.  Meeting and conference rooms, offices, and housekeeping spaces were added or remodelled, and attempts were made to install fixtures and furnishings to reflect the original character of the spaces.  A significant feature of phase two was a new entrance created on Teresa's southern side, with the consent of the convent.  An addition for the entrance brought the formerly exterior staircase inside, and a new elevator was added inside the entrance as well, to make both Gertrude and Teresa Halls more accessible.  The Teresa Reception Center (TRC) is on the National Register of Historic Places and is used for meetings, speakers and other events. 

In 2006, construction for a new cafeteria and dining area began.  Upon completion of the Gorecki Dining Center in 2007, the basement of St. Gertrude Hall was given back to the Sisters of St. Benedict for their use. 

The Main Building continues to serve multiple purposes for the College.  Academic uses include a couple of classrooms on the third floor of St. Gertrude Hall; offices in Gertrude and the Teresa Hall Rotunda for theology, accounting, management, and history; and classrooms and offices on the fourth floor for the nursing department.  The Main Building also serves as the primary administrative building for the College, with offices for the President, Admission, Communication and Marketing Services, Student Accounts, Human Resources, Institutional Advancement, and Financial Aid.

For more information see also: Council of Independent Colleges' Historic Campus Architecture Project pages for the College of Saint Benedict.

See also Photos of the Main Building (Note: this page may take a long time to load.)

See also National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet St. Benedict’s Monastery and the College of St. Benedict

Places/Buildings included:
Saint Benedict’s Convent and College Historic District
Main Building/Saint Cecilia Hall
Saint Benedict’s Monastery/Saint Benedict Hall
Sacred Heart Chapel
Saint Benedict's Monastery/Saint Scholastica Hall
Main Building/Saint Gertrude Hall
Main Building/Saint Teresa Hall (St. Teresa Hall photo from the archives)

Bibliography:
Graske, Lindsey. "Nursing Department undergoes renovations," The Record, September 16, 2011.

Ross, Sharon.  "A Sense of place: A historical college building reaffirms its role on the St. Benedict campus," Architecture Minnesota, September-October 1991, p. 30-31.

Blatz, Imogene. "Behind the beginnings: College of St. Benedict," The Record, February 21, 1989.

Soriya, Maiya. "Teresa Hall undergoes facelift," The Independent, September 27, 1988.

Welter, Virginia. "Rooms with little room in 'Gertrude Hall,'" The Torch, November 6, 1967.

Special thanks to Ariel Smelter '12 for drafting this text.