'We’ve always known The Woods to be a special place which has touched and changed many lives for generations.'
SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS, IN – The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, recently announced the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Its addition to the National Register honors the property’s importance to the state and the nation.
“When people visit Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for the first time, they are always overwhelmed by its beauty and peacefulness. It is a place made sacred not only by the beauty of the buildings and the environment, but by the people who have walked here, the spirituality that has been shared here, by the work of education and now health care that takes place here,” Sisters of Providence General Superior Dawn Tomaszewski – a 1974 graduate of the college – said.
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District is approximately 67 acres of mostly wooded site. It is deemed significant in two criteria: Its association with events and people who have made important contributions to broad patterns of U.S. history, particularly in education and religion, and the district characteristics and high artistic values of architecture at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“We’ve always known The Woods to be a special place which has touched and changed many lives for generations. Now, the nation has recognized its significance and we are incredibly proud,” Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College President, Dottie L. King, Ph.D., said.
The Sisters of Providence, under the leadership of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin – the beloved eighth United States saint – emigrated from France in 1840 to form a religious order in Indiana for the purpose of establishing a school, which eventually became the oldest Catholic women’s college in Indiana.
By Saint Mother Theodore’s death in 1856, she had directed the opening of 11 schools in nine Indiana towns, Pioneering work at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the Indiana wilderness where this order and higher learning institution were established, became an important contributor to the evolution of women’s education and Catholic higher education in the country.
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District features a collection of high-styled buildings, constructed between the 1880s and the 1960s. Many were designed by architectural firm, Bohlen and Son, based in Indianapolis. The buildings are impressive examples of the Classical Revival, Renaissance and Beaux-Arts style.
The National Register nomination form submitted by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College lists a total of 66 buildings, sites, structures, and objects contributing to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods’ historic significance. They include buildings such as Guerin Hall, Le Fer Hall, Hulman Hall, and the Rooney Library, all owned by the college, as well as impressive religious buildings owned by the Sisters of Providence, including the Church of the Immaculate Conception, The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Sisters of Providence Motherhouse/Providence Hall, and the Saint Anne Shell Chapel.
“What an inheritance we have received from the Sisters of Providence who went before us, whose vision and deep appreciation for the beautiful helped shape the architectural expressions found both in the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College buildings and in those places where the Sisters of Providence live and work,” Sister Dawn said. “I think this designation as a Historic District honors their legacy, a legacy that we Sisters of Providence today truly desire to share with others. We certainly hope this designation on the National Register of Historic Places will lead more people to discover this treasure we call Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.”
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College started pursuing the nomination in January 2015 in conjunction with the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial. The college worked with Tommy Kleckner, director of the Indiana Landmarks Western Regional Office, throughout the process. Both the college and the Sisters of Providence were recipients of the Indiana Landmarks Partners in Preservation grant, which covered part of the technical consultation fee for the nomination.
Administered by the National Park Service, the National Register is the official list of historic U.S. sites considered worthy of preservation. It is a formal recognition of a property’s architectural, historical, or archaeological significance based on national standards used by states. It allows opportunities for specific preservation incentives including federal and state grants and tax credits.
“Historic preservation is important to the human narrative. Our campus is a picture of our values and a living demonstration of our commitment to honoring the rich legacy we have inherited. We’re excited about the possibilities the new designation creates to raise awareness of the historic impact and beauty of our campus and especially to share this beauty with future generations of students,” King added.
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About the Sisters of Providence
The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of nearly 300 women religious, with more than 200 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 17 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries may be found at SistersofProvidence.org.