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Deconstruction begins on Mount Saint Joseph Retreat Center

The first steps toward deconstructing the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center are underway, with the original building of 1874 the first target of the contractors.

The Leadership Council for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph on March 7, 2023, awarded the bid to Lanham Brothers General Contractors of Owensboro to oversee the deconstruction project. The contract was signed the following week. RBS Design Group of Owensboro is the architect for the project.

Among the reasons for choosing Lanham Brothers was their reliance on using mostly local subcontractors, according to Sister Sharon Sullivan, congregational leader.

Contractors arrived at Maple Mount on March 21 to place security fencing around the building. Small steps have been taken since that time to prepare for the deconstruction, but on April 18, 2023, large excavators began taking down the original Mount Saint Joseph Academy building in the center of the complex.

The Retreat Center closed on March 13, 2020, when the rest of the Maple Mount campus was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It had operated since 1983. The original building was constructed for Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1874, a school for girls operated by the Ursuline Sisters until 1983.

During an ongoing review of campus buildings in 2021, it was determined that the bricks that serve as the foundation for the oldest section of the Retreat Center were deteriorating and made the building unsafe to occupy. Aside from the structural issues, the fire suppression system also needed to be replaced along with all the heating and cooling units. Architects and engineers advised the Sisters on what the building needed and its costs. Those costs were extreme, and would still leave bricks that would not withstand future weather events.

The Ursuline Sisters gathered in the summer of 2021 to discuss the building’s future. The vote by the Sisters to deconstruct the Retreat Center was held July 9, 2021. The decision was an emotional one for the Ursuline Sisters, 34 of whom graduated from the Academy.

The Ursuline Sisters follow the counsel of their founder, Saint Angela Merici, who advised to read the signs of the times and adjust accordingly. While the decision was difficult, Sister Sharon said removing the building offers the possibility of a new direction for the Ursuline community, although where the future lies is still uncertain. The future of retreat ministry with the community is still being discussed.

The timeline for deconstruction calls for the project to be completed between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2023. The contractor is preserving some of the original bricks for posterity, which will be made available to the public for a donation. (See how that process will work here.) The ground where the building stood will be stabilized, sodded and allowed to recover. Whether something new will be built on the site is the subject for future conversations, Sister Sharon said.

The Memorial Garden, Rosary Walk and the Saint Joseph statues on the north and west sides of the Retreat Center should not be affected by the deconstruction. The project will be as environmentally friendly as possible.

The contract also includes deconstruction of Paul Volk Hall, a building on the south of campus built in 1981

that was used for housing and offices. Prior to its removal, multiple utility lines running through the building that connect to the rest of the campus must be rerouted to avoid interrupting service to the Ursuline community.

Access through the Maple Mount campus will be interrupted during the project, but those seeking to utilize Maple Hall – formerly known as the Mount Auditorium – will still be able to do so.

Video of the first day of deconstruction

 

 

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