Le Fer Hall

College, Sisters present ‘Stories from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District’

News | 07.21.2021

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and have partnered with the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute to present “Stories from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District.”

The exhibit can be viewed in the 2nd Floor Lobby and Education Galleries of the Swope Art Museum, from Aug. 6 through Oct. 4. An opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6 will feature remarks by Tommy Kleckner, director of Indiana Landmarks Western Regional Office. The Swope Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. There is no cost for admission. The museum is located at 25 S. 7th St., Terre Haute.

Sisters of Providence General Superior Sister Dawn Tomaszewski ’74, said the public will get a chance to see how the walls within the buildings around campus “talk” about the rich history the Woods.

The crypt lid that held Saint Mother Theodore Guerin is on display at the Swope Art Museum for “Stories from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District.”

“We’re hoping the historic artifacts, architectural drawings and other precious possessions on display at the Swope will do the talking for us and tell the story of the rich cultural, historical and educational legacy of the Providence Community that has inhabited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 1840,” Sister Dawn said. “We’re grateful to the Swope Art Gallery for allowing both the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College to share the hidden treasures with the greater Wabash Valley.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District will showcase drawings, photographs, objects and original architectural elements. Many of the historic buildings in the district were designed by the renowned architectural firm, Bohlen and Son of Indianapolis.

SMWC President Dottie L. King, Ph.D., said she is pleased the community will have the chance to see the exhibit.

“I am excited to offer an opportunity for those who attend the exhibit to know us better and to recognize the enduring presence of the Sisters of Providence and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in the Wabash Valley,” King said. “We have truly grown up together and our histories are intertwined. I believe that people will be amazed and inspired by the chosen artifacts and I hope that it encourages them to visit our campus and have a new appreciation for our mission.”

The event is coordinated by the Historic District Committee – a collaboration between the Sisters of Providence and SMWC. Chairperson and SMWC Director of Grants Development, Susan Dolle, said it was important to the committee for the exhibit to feature vignettes of history from the district, making connection to lives and to the value of preservation.

“Since the historic district was placed on the National Register in 2017, the committee has worked to create awareness about this unique, beautiful and historically significant place,” Dolle said. “The buildings reflect a presence and grace befitting the ideals of the founding Catholic religious Congregation, the Sisters of Providence and the institution they established as one of the first higher education venues for women in the United States.”

Architectural drawings from the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus will be on display on the second floor of the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute.

Fred J. Nation, executive director of the Swope, said about hosting the exhibit, “Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is a treasure of Terre Haute. This exhibit celebrates some of the varied architectural aspects of the campus, home to both the College and the Sisters of Providence. We hope this exhibit will both increase public knowledge about the Woods and encourage more persons to visit the lovely and historic campus.”

Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, the Historic District Committee had also hosted architectural presentations, open houses and building tours for the public.

The exhibit was made possible through a Historic Preservation Education Grant from Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For further information contact the Swope Art Museum at 812-238-1676 or Providence Spirituality and Conference Center at 812-535-2952 or visit smwhistoricdistrict.org.

About the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Saint Mary-of-the Woods Historic District consists of a total of 66 buildings, sites, structures and objects. They include buildings such as Guerin Hall, Le Fer Hall, Hulman Hall and the Rooney Library, all owned by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, as well as impressive religious buildings owned by the Sisters of Providence such as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Sisters of Providence Motherhouse/Providence Hall and the St. Anne Shell Chapel.

On approximately 131 wooded acres, the Historic District encompasses structures and landscapes designed by four generations of the Bohlen architectural dynasty begun in 1853 by Diedrich Bohlen.