Saint Joseph’s College
1027 South College Avenue, Rensselaer
Stuck in Limbo
When Saint Joseph’s College closed in 2017 under the burden of a $27 million debt, it left a campus that spans more than a century in limbo. Many of the 35 buildings are eligible for the National Register but suffered deterioration even before the closure, with an estimated $35 million in deferred maintenance. More damage could be occurring without the knowledge of the skeleton staff that remains.
The campus’s historic buildings span the period from its 1888 founding by Katharine Drexel—an American heiress and nun declared a Catholic saint in 2000—as St. Joseph’sIndian Normal School, an educational institution for native American children. The college followed, adding Collegiate Gothic structures in the early years of the twentieth century, Neoclassical buildings in 1922-40, and Mid-Century Modern structures designed by Frank Fischer in the 1960s.
Two mid-century standouts, Schwietermann Hall and Halleck Student Center, and 1888 Drexel Hall are individually listed in the National Register, an honorific status provides no protection or funding.
The campus needs a conditions assessment and mothballing plan, as well as an analysis of new uses for the historic buildings individually or as a whole.
Saving threatened buildings takes teamwork. You can be a part of that team. Reach out to local leaders. Let them know these buildings are important to you. And support state and local preservation groups.