Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Administration Building

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Institution Name: Seton Hill University
Original/Historic Place Name: St. Joseph Academy and Motherhouse
Location on Campus: on the crest of Seton Hill
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1886-1889original construction Stillburg, Joseph
1962-1966modernization of fireproofing; replacement of open porches with fire stairs Unknown
1976addition of new roof Unknown
1993-1995replacement of windows Unknown
1999-2001renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: Ohio cut sandstone
Walls: red brick
Roof: slate; tin
ca. 1889other (academy for girls and young women)
ca. 1889-1960residence hall (for Sisters, hired maids, students)
ca. 1889-1969other (Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill)
ca. 1889-present (2007)student union (parlors)
ca. 1889-present (2007)classrooms
ca. 1889-present (2007)administration
ca. 2001-present (2007)other (National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education)
ca. 2001-present (2007)other (National Education Center for Women in Business)
ca. 2001-present (2007)alumni center

Significance: architecture, culture, education, religion
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Joseph Stillberg, a prominent architect of Pittsburgh, was engaged to draw up the plans for St. Joseph Academy, which included a new Motherhouse and Novitiate. At the Groundbreaking for St. Joseph Academy, the present Administration Building, on September 7, 1886, the Assistant Mother, Sister Mary Josephine (later Mother Superior), removed the first shovelful of earth. It was the first new building venture of the Sisters "on the Hill."

Between 1962 and 1966, enclosed stairwells and fire stairs replaced the open porches on the front of the building, fire doors were installed on the stairs leading to the chapel, and the wooden stairwells at the east and west ends of the building from the second (parlor) floor to the fifth floor were removed and floors built to fill the space on each level of the building. In 1976 a new roof was added, and the "Windows to the Future" program in 1993-1995 enabled the replacement of all 219 windows in the 1892 Administration Building.

Grants were received from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in 1997 to rehabilitate the Administration Building, and from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1998 for technological improvement to the building for the National Education Center for Women in Business (NECWB). The building closed for renovation on October 19, 1999 and officially re-opened June 8, 2001. It now houses the NECWB, NCCHE (National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education), the Alumni Office, offices, and classrooms.

This building is important to Seton Hill University because from 1889 until 1969 it was the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, the founders of the academy that eventually became the University. It also was the first campus building built by the Sisters. It has housed classrooms since its erection and has been, for most of its life, the center of the administrative functions of the university. Until the 1960s, dormitories for the Sisters and some of the hired maids were located on the fourth and fifth floors. Until recently, student dormitories were also to be found on the upper floors.

When the four parlors were renovated, the decorative designs on the ceiling were discovered and restored, and the marble fireplaces that had been covered over were uncovered and left open. Most of the original woodwork was restored, and the brick walls on the fifth floor were uncovered, cleaned, and left as the wall finish.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Boyle, Mary Electa. Mother Seton's Sisters of Charity in Western Pennsylvania. Greensburg, PA: Seton Hill, 1946.

Troutman, R. Dwight. "Hazard Yet Forward: A History of Seton Hill College." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1978.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections, Facilities Management Office
Other: Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill

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