Renovation and Construction Background
RENOVATION AND CONSTRUCTION BACKGROUND
THE NEW ST. DOMINIC PRIORY
This $8.4 million project will renovate and restore 48,000 square feet of existing space, preserve historic architectural gems, and construct a new 10,000 square foot Dominican Commons addition.
The building, which opened in 1909 as the Loretto Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school, will be re-dedicated later this year as a residential community for students preparing for ordination and ministry as friars in the Dominican religious order, also known as the Order of Preachers.
The students will come from 25 central and southern states, which represent two distinct geographic regions for the Order. The Central Province is headquartered in Chicago and includes 14 states. The Southern Province is headquartered in New Orleans and encompasses 11 states. The Priory is being built in St. Louis because Dominican student brothers from both these provinces complete their graduate degrees at nearby Aquinas Institute of Theology in Midtown.
“This is the right time for this expansion in St. Louis on multiple levels,” said the Very Rev. Charles Bouchard, O.P., Prior Provincial for the Central Province and a key part of the leadership team for the project. “Our students have been studying in St. Louis since 1981 and living in a high-rise building at Saint Louis University. Our vocations are growing, and the growth creates a need for dedicated space.”
Father Bouchard said moving to the space is also a sound financial decision and an opportunity to develop the religious community to its greatest potential.
“The Dominican Order, like every religious order, has its unique purpose and personality,” Bouchard said. “We are preachers and teachers and our ministry is rooted in and nourished by community life. We live in community as brothers and pursue the intellectual life and a life of spreading the Gospel. In this space, we will flourish as individuals and as a community. We will restore and keep alive a space with a century-old Catholic connection. We will add stability to an urban neighborhood. And, through conveniences such as being near a university bus line and city transit service, we will meet the needs of our student brothers.”
The building, which drivers can see as they exit Interstate 44 at Grand Avenue, has a storied past. It was designed by architectural firm Barnett, Hayes, and Barnett, founded by the 19th-century legendary architect George I. Barnett. Among buildings Barnett designed are the Missouri Governor’s Mansion and the St. Louis Cathedral in the Central West End.
When the building opened as Loretto Academy in 1909, it was a suburban school constructed to escape city pollution and respond to population growth. In 1952, Loretto Academy closed and consolidated with Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves. In the 59 years since, the building has served as a day care center, a home for retired Loretto sisters, and most recently an apartment community run by an association of religious orders, serving women and children in poverty. Changes in federal rent subsidies made it impossible for the association to continue providing housing, and made the building available for reuse.
The landmark represents an eclectic blend of Tudor revival, characterized by the brickwork and the copper domes on each tower, and Colonial revival, characterized by the four white columns on a neo-classical portico. It includes 32,000 square feet of living space and an additional 16,000 feet of chapel, corridors, and storage.
Among features that will be preserved is a beautiful tile fireplace with a carved wooden mantle and a vintage Chapel with original artisan-crafted stained glass. The Chapel will be open to visitors at the September 10th event. Pictures of the Chapel, recent construction, and our student brothers on retreat can be found immediately below.
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