Mary Frances Hall
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Groundbreaking for the Mother Mary Frances Clarke Memorial Residence Hall, or Mary Frances Hall as it is more commonly known, took place on June 6, 1923. The building site was directly across the street from the old Academy Building (Margaret Mann Hall). All exterior work on the building had been completed by 1923, and Frances Hall was first opened to students the following fall. It was the first building on campus to be used exclusively as a dormitory.
The building was designed by Francis Berry Byrne of Chicago. As a follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, he imbued the building with the prairie-home ideal of functional beauty. The original structure consisted of two large wings built at an angle to a central body. Counting the lower level there were five floors and a brown brick exterior and roof capped with the same style of orange tiles used for Eliza Kelly Hall seventeen years before. A stained class transom was placed above the main entrance containing the BVM motto: SICIT LILIUM INTER SPINAS ("like a lily among the thorns"). This symbolizes Mary Immaculate living in a world of sin. The rear of the building featured a projecting space for a dining room on the ground level and a solarium above. A statue of Mary (Our Lady of the Sunset) graced the back campus as late as the early 1960s. The back of the building also became the first designated smoking area on the entire campus. An underground tunnel connected the building to the Academy Building across the street, and for many years it was employed by sisters and students alike for crossing the street without fear of the elements.
Many modifications have been made to the building over the years. When the dining room on the lower level closed for good in the 1940s, it was converted into an activity room. It remained as such until the fall of 1979, when this renovated space was opened as a new student union. It had a main area of different elevated levels, an attached quiet lounge, and a connecting billiards room. It was also in 1979 that the tunnel was closed, primarily due to safety reasons. With the construction of the Kehl center in 1992-1994, the west end of Mary Frances Hall was provided with a stairwell that connected to the athletic building, and in 1996 the Chapel of our Lady was removed, with some of this space being converted into new rooms and the rest into a lounge. Several of the chapel pews were saved and placed in various locations on campus.