Seton Earth-Sheltered Apartments

Historical Photos

Seton Apartments, 1981 Seton Apartments, 2006

Seton Apartments, 1981 and 2006 (click thumbnails for larger images) 

Architect: Hamel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc., Minneapolis; Ted Butler, project architect

Contractor: Gohman Construction


In 1981, construction began for new upper classman housing at St. John’s. These apartments, which would be named the Seton Earth-Sheltered Apartments after Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, were built on north side of  Stumpf Watab (i.e. the dammed north fork of the Watab river). The new construction consisted of 20 apartments, to which could house a total of 80 students.

The unique design of these building was created maximize energy efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. The apartments are built into the ground, which keeps the outside temperature at a consistent 55° year-round. Additionally, the apartments were constructed facing south so that they would let in the afternoon sunlight, reducing the need to heat the buildings.

Each apartment is two levels and 1,000 square feet with an upstairs kitchen and living area and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the lower level.

These buildings were dedicated and blessed on October 8th, 1982.

Cosmetic updates were made to the Seton Earth Shelters in the summer of 2007, but climate control was a chronic problem. Plans were made to raze them in the summer of 2020 and replace them with new apartments, but the COVID-19 global pandemic, which precipitated the cancellation of the Fall 2020 Study Abroad programs (and thus the need for more student housing on campus), resulted in a reprieve for Seton.