IT IS FAR TOO EASY to play the “I bet that used to be Catholic” game in Saint Louis. Many a grand decaying edifice, or perhaps merely an inscription on a wall, or a cornerstone in a garden, remind us of how much Christ once really mattered to society.
This is the former Loretto Academy, dating from 1909 and inspired by Osterley Park in London. As Catholics moved out of the neighborhood, the Sisters of Loretto merged this school with Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves in 1952. In recent years the building become increasingly run-down and was recently boarded-up. The former Academy is located on Lafayette Avenue facing Interstate 44, near Grand Boulevard. It is adjacent to the medical campus of Saint Louis University.
But now it is being redeveloped by the Central and Southern provinces of the Ordo Prædicatorum, the Order of Preachers — the Dominicans friars — and will be the residence for their seminarians. Since 1981, the Dominicans have been living in Jesuit Hall on the campus of SLU, but a great increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in recent years means that they need new quarters.
A view of the chapel.
The Saint Dominic Priory website has more information on the reconstruction, including architectural renderings and historical photos of the Academy.
A sign in front of the building.