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Woodland Inn turns 120

Woodland Inn-800

A sketch of Woodland Inn after it was finished in 1894.

An inn or hospitality house has been maintained at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since the early days. For many years  this was a frame structure situated on the north side of the road where Guerin Hall now stands. The intersection of this road with the main avenue near the Inn marks the limits of the grounds until about 1895, and was the place of the famous “old gate.”

The old Visitors’ Home, in spite of repairing and remodeling, soon became inadequate to its task of sheltering the families of an increasing number of sisters and students as well as distinguished visitors to the campus. On June 11, 1894, Oscar Bohlen completed the staking off of the ground for the new hotel on the east side of the main avenue, its present location.

Deidrich Bohlen designed the new building in the neo-Gothic style for which he was noted. After the 1830s the Gothic developed as a national domestic style that continued through and after the Civil War era. The revival was highlighted by the pointed arch that could be ingeniously combined with  towers, crenellations, step-gabled roof, bay and oriel windows, tracery and leaded stained glass.

House plans were asymmetrical to allow flexibility in arrangement of rooms and create picturesque external silhouettes. This design accounts for the uniqueness of the Inn where each floor has a different floor plan. There are six bathrooms and twelve bedrooms on the second floor and three bathrooms and ten bedrooms on the third. Each room differs in size and shape from every other one.


The Woodland Inn as it looks today.

The Inn is a three-storied red brick contrasting with the buff or cream brick used in most of the later structures. It was designed for carriage trade with porte-cochere, while its porch on the west afforded visitors the opportunity to sit outside in the shade during hot weather. The main entrance has Tuscan Order columns and a large pediment with carved ornamentation. A strip of ornamental stone work appears on the facade of the tower below the fourth floor. Two more entrances face south, one of them seems of much later vintage and much less well constructed than the rest of the building. The front gable has triple rounded windows and is surrounded by a decorative balustrade. Decorative iron work makes a crest on the northwest tower, a feature typical of the Italiante style, popular among late nineteenth and early twentieth century architects.

Jungclaus and Schumaker, under Mr. Bohlen’s direction, erected the building which was ready for occupancy by December 7, 1894.

The stained glass windows that adorns the front doors of the Inn.

The stained glass windows that adorn the front doors of the Inn.

Among the first persons to stay at the new guest house were a Mr. and Mrs. Flaherty, sister and brother-in law of Reverend Joseph A. Byrne, chaplain at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Mary Cleophas, the superior general at this time, asked the young couple to name the new facility and they gave it the name “The Woodland” or “The Woodland Inn.”

An early contract in the Archives suggests that originally the Inn was leased to persons who would manage it, paying monthly rent to the congregation. A Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Peele were its first managers. Over the years a succession of more or less satisfactory persons came and went as managers. Among the most successful was Sister Consuelo Burtschi who for six years gave new meaning to the expression “a house of hospitality.”

In 1968 the present Guest House was built and a new era began for the Woodland Inn. In 1969 twelve Sisters of Providence who taught at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College received permission to occupy the Inn as a faculty house.

Two days ago marked the 120th year that Oscar Bohlen finished staking the ground to begin the construction of Woodland Inn. The Inn still stands today and continues to look glorious on the avenue.

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Sister Mary Roger Madden

Sister Mary Roger is a Sister of Providence and author of volume III of the congregation's history books titled The Path Marked Out.

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  1. Mary milano on June 13, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    The first time I visited the Woods was after my sophomore year at Mother Guerin. I remember Sister Consuela as the mistress of the house so to speak, a tight ship but incredibly welcoming. I was so taken by the beauty of the Woods – unmatched anywhere. And have been a captive of its decrees- like and joined to Providence – and it’s call one way or another ever since.

  2. Annette on July 4, 2016 at 5:33 am

    It is wonderful to see Sr. Mary Rogers looking so vibrant and young!! I have fond memories of her, Sr. Giovanna, and Sr. Anne Stephens at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in Gardena, CA. I wish we’d had teachers of their caliber at the schools my daughter attended. They are sorely missed!!

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