Former convent faces demolition at UMSL

ST. LOUIS - The University of Missouri-St. Louis says a former dormitory is just too expensive to keep.

But the building wasn't always a dorm, and that's why some residents don't want to see it go.

When a building with history is about to be torn down, debate is inevitable, especially when it's a former convent that's facing the wrecking ball.

Tucked away in a Bel-Nor neighborhood, Normandy Hall has been owned by UMSL since the early 1990s, and was the first on-campus housing at the school.

In the 1920s, the building began as a convent, belonging to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

Sister Helena Monahan, the president of nearby Incarnate Word Academy, remembers daily visits to the convent chapel when she was a high school student at the academy.

"We'd eat our lunch in the cafeteria, and then go to the convent chapel and say a prayer and leave. It was part of our daily ritual," said Monahan.

Sometime this summer, the former convent will be torn down because it's too expensive for UMSL to renovate.

"We believe it will take about $11 million to bring it back up to be a working building," said Bob Samples.

"I was horrified. I said they can't do that," said Sheila Boul, a Bel-Nor resident.

Boul lives near the former convent. She and some of her neighbors are not pleased about tearing down what she calls a neighborhood landmark.

"It's a beautiful building. It just makes me sick that we live in such a disposable society that if something is old and needs work they just tear it down and throw it away," said Boul.

Sister Monahan sees it differently.

"We hope to turn the loss of an old building that would be very costly to fix used for into something positive," she said.


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