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posted: 10/7/2017 7:00 AM

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods District now on historic register

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the Sisters of Providence jointly announced Tuesday afternoon that their combined campus, known as the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods District, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"This (campus) has provided a unique educational experience for students to come into the beauty of these buildings," SMWC President Dottie King said during a news conference at Le Fer Hall. "The older ones have a European flair. . Lots of (Woods students) come from Indiana and maybe they haven't seen buildings like these before. So what a rich experience it has provided."

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

More than 80,000 properties are listed in the National Register, representing 1.4 million individual resources (buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects). Almost every county in the United States has at least one place listed in the National Register.

Later in her address, King cited the uniqueness of Le Fer Hall as an example of why the campus was honored.

"This is our residence hall," she said. "Above us are floors 2, 3 and 4, where the students live. We're in the midst of a campaign to renovate this building, so we've spent lots of time talking about how to create spaces that are meaningful to today's students and still hold on to this historic beauty of this building."

After doing some research, King and her staff learned a few things about Le Fer Hall.

"The building opened in the late 1920s," she explained. "Because the college was expanding very quickly, we needed another residence hall. ... So Guerin Hall housed the freshmen, and the upperclassmen moved to this building. When it opened, there were beauty salons on floors 2, 3 and 4 - three beauty salons. You may be wondering, do we have any beauty salons now? No, we don't. But we did then.

"If you look at the front of the building, out on the lawn, there is what we call the Sunken Garden and it's beautiful. But when the building originally opened, that area was a water feature and it had big fountains. ... You might also be interested to know that this building is home to 1,098 windows. A few years ago, we re-did each window on this (ground) level and we preserved the original casework and the beauty. And the price tag? A million dollars. It costs a lot to renovate an old building if you're holding on to the beauty of the building."

Most of the 1930s necessities and conveniences of Le Fer Hall are not noticeable now, but King said it has continued to evolve with the times.

"It's a beautiful building to live in," she pointed out. "Yet we keep it really practical for the needs of the students."

Sister Dawn Tomazewski, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and Indiana Landmarks Western Regional Office director Tommy Kleckner also emphasized the significance of Tuesday's announcement.

"When people visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the first time, they are always overwhelmed by its beauty and peacefulness," noted Tomazewski, general supervisor of the Sisters of Providence. "It is a place made sacred not only by the beauty of the buildings and the environment, but by the people who have walked here, the spirituality that has been shared here, by the work of education and now health care that takes place here."

"It is a very peaceful place to come," said Bennett, whose daughter Suzanne is a Woods graduate. "It's been obvious that we've seen change out here in the last few years, a lot of change ... and that's kinda what life's all about."

The mayor described the SMWC and Sisters of Providence buildings and campus as "a gem in our community."

"Having this (National Register of Historic Places) designation, it just brings a whole different realm to it," he continued. "It really gives it that official government designation that this is a special place. We all knew that, but now we can share that with the world."

"We (in the Terre Haute area) have a number of historic resources that have been listed in the National Register - Farringtons Grove, Collett Park, Ohio Boulevard and Deming Park," Kleckner mentioned. "But Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is a more unique type of resource - from the district, its size, the number of its resources and also its history. That's something that sets it apart from the other resources that we see."

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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