For nearly 100 years the Incarnate Word Convent has been a St. Louis landmark, a key piece of architectural and cultural history in the "Little Rome of the West," and a source of pride for the Bel-Nor and Normandy communities. Now threatened with demolition this summer, we call for the University of Missouri-St. Louis to halt its demolition plans and save the Incarnate Word Convent, so that it may stand another 100 years.
Located on the very plot of land upon which Charles Lucas, founder of Normandy, built his home in 1815, the Incarnate Word Convent dates back as far as September 24, 1922, when Archbishop Glennon blessed what was then the Provincial House of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word from San Antonio, Texas, the first St. Louis foothold for the order. Construction continued on the remarkable building for the rest of the decade; its cornerstone was laid in 1928 and the convent dedicated in August of 1929. In September of 1932, the convent opened its doors to thirty-five students as the first home of Incarnate Word Academy - a private school for young women. Since 1992, the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) has owned the convent. The university began leasing space from Incarnate Word as early as August 1991, when the building became the first home to UMSL's Pierre Laclede Honors College. When the Honors College was relocated, the building became UMSL's first residence hall. Unfortunately, UMSL has not made, nor found use for the building in close to a decade. Instead of selling or renovating the building - the university claims the costs too high, despite the substantially higher costs of new building construction - UMSL has announced plans to demolish the building this summer.
KSDK was first to report with a story that ran on March 4, 2014. Public documents show that UMSL has already commenced demolition plans, including capping off water and gas supplies to the building and hiring a demolition crew - Z & L Wrecking - to begin preparations. KSDK story here: http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/03/04/normandy-hall-umsl-demolition-set/6041853/
While UMSL may now own the property and the building, to demolish this beautiful and significant piece of architectural history is not only poor stewardship, it is wasteful and destructive. For nearly 100 years the building has been a center of intellectual, cultural and spiritual life; its wood parquet floors, arched doorways and grand, colonnaded chapel have inspired residents and patrons with reverence and awe. The handsome facade, designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, has similarly impressed the neighboring community and those who have passed through its gates. The convent is an excellent example of American craftsmanship, masonry and metalwork from the early 20th century with architectural characteristics from 11th and 12th century southern France, Spain and Italy. It's been a happy gathering place for generations of young students - especially the women of Incarnate Word Academy - and it is our hope that the building will stand to inspire greatness in generations to come.
Architecture is art and art - especially historic art that is still functional, beautiful and communal - deserves protection and preservation. We stand together to oppose the destruction of history and call for the University of Missouri-St. Louis to halt its demolition plans and commit to preserving the convent so that it may stand another 100 years.