The former St. Vincent’s College and Seminary is in the process of restoration and renovation to sesrve as a centerpiece of Southeast Missouri State University’s new River Campus.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 8, 2006 — Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus is rising from the former St. Vincent’s College and Seminary, rooted on the banks of the Mississippi River since 1838. But the original historic building now being restored at the site will not soon be forgotten.
That’s because two Southeast Missouri State University students have spent the past year taking photos of historic elements of the property that are being compiled into archival notebooks. The photos ultimately will be housed in the University Archives.
Allison Marshaus of St. Clair, Mo., and Catherine Myers of Jackson, Mo., both historic preservation majors set to graduate from Southeast in August, have taken hundreds of black and white photographs over the past year. The 4-by-6 prints have been placed in archival notebooks, with a written description of each photo beside it.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students – to provide something as a future resource,” said Dr. Steven Hoffman, director of Southeast’s Historic Preservation program. “They really enjoyed it. They felt happy to be entrusted with a significant professional project.
“They got to learn what really happens on a construction site,” he said. “This project helped make real what they are learning in the classroom. By getting them into the field, we help students make these connections with the real world.”
Hoffman said the students took on the work as a paid project. Marshaus, who has taken a photography class, took the photos, and Myers documented each image captured. Hoffman said the two photographed historic elements and fabrics in the building before rehabilitation work covered many of the original surfaces.
“As a preservationist, you have to be able to identify key characteristic historic elements,” Hoffman said. “They went once or twice a week and documented the changes they saw.”
The St. Vincent’s Seminary property is significant for its design and construction. The original architecture embodies distinctive characteristics of adaptations of the popular Georgian and Italianate architectural styles, demonstrating the transition in institutional architecture from popular 18th century Colonial American design motifs to widely accepted 19th century architectural forms.
Hoffman said the two students are currently completing a final notebook of photographs, at which time their work will be turned over to the University Archives.
The former St. Vincent’s College and Seminary was listed on the National Register of Historic places last September. The site of St. Vincent’s Seminary is beautifully situated at 201 Morgan Oak Street, overlooking the Mississippi River at the foot of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. The seminary is the new home of Southeast’s River Campus, which will house the University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts. The River Campus will include the existing structure along with 100,000 square feet of additional space with venues for music, art, theatre and dance, and the Southeast Missouri Regional Museum. The development of the property is a joint project with participation from the state of Missouri, the City of Cape Girardeau, the federal government and private donations. The River Campus is expected to open in late 2007.
St. Vincent’s College and Seminary has a long history with Cape Girardeau and the region, and was responsible for educating thousands of students, especially priests, from its inception in 1838.
St. Vincent’s College was incorporated by legislative act when the Missouri General Assembly empowered the college to grant any degree usually offered by American colleges and universities in 1843. The cornerstone for the first building at the Seminary (which housed the faculty residence and classrooms) was laid in the spring of 1843. It was one of the earliest colleges west of the Mississippi River.
During the Civil War, the college, despite its low enrollment, continued to train most of the Catholic clergy of the West. In 1871, a three-story third wing west of the dormitories was added to house a spacious chapel, the lecture room and a recreation room.
From 1910 to the early 1980s, the school operated as a seminary preparing young men aspiring for the priesthood.
The Congregation of the Mission is a Roman Catholic religious community founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in France. The Congregation founded Saint Mary’s of the Barrens Seminary in Perryville, Mo., in 1818. The Congregation has offices in Earth City, Mo.