By Catie Kehoe
For most Mount Saint Mary College students, the Dominican Center is the first thing we see. Crossing over the Beacon Bridge, the view of the majestic building over the Hudson is nothing short of arresting. As a fixture at Mount Saint Mary College, many feel an emotional connection to this towering structure. However, it wasn’t until last year that the college purchased this property as its own. Now that the exciting process of reconstruction has begun, it’s interesting to gaze back into what this building used to be.
Previous to the refurbishment, the Dominican Center fostered a private chapel, convent, residential care unit, archives, and development and finance offices. The landmark was built in December of 1927, and the chapel was completed the following year. The interior of this monstrously sized building is both ravishing and historic. The entrance passageway is designed in the quintessential “Tudor” style. The lamp in the entrance was actually a gift to the celebrated Bishop Dunn for his assistance to the Turks in a 1920’s earthquake.
Vestiges of the Dominican Sisters that founded our institution in 1873 are marked throughout the building; namely, in the sanctuary where the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary seal is emblazoned. Also, an ornate mosaic of Saint Dominic appears on the left side of the alter.
The sanctuary is remaining intact despite the renovation. However, the administration plans to make great changes to the surrounding facility. Highland Associates, the architects, and Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction, the contractor, project completion of the residence halls in December 2013, and the dining hall and library in January 2014. This means that many current students will get to experience the finished product before graduating!
While the prospect of a renovated Dominican Center is invigorating, the role this fixture has taken in our memories is just as compelling. Dr. James Cotter, Professor of English, said, “I always admired the building for its impressive architecture and marvelous site. Standing on its steps and gazing down the river and over to the mountains has been a new and moving experience for me at all times.” I think the same can be said for most of us.
The Dominican Center is one of those rare places—it makes you abundantly aware that you are a part of a rich lineage. As Sister Peggy, Professor of Religious Studies, remarked, “Walking up to the Dominican Center we are tracing the steps of the original four sisters who walked up the hill to open the first school at Mount Saint Mary in 1873. We can pray to them now for courage.” Indeed, this remodel is a continuation of that rich lineage.