Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tale of Two Colleges

Today I met with one of my old students who has a bit of work left to do before he can receive his high school diploma. We've been meeting weekly at Meramec Community College, which is close to his house.

I don't have a parking pass for the school, so I usually park on the street and walk to the library. The school is on spring break this week, though, so I was able to park in the parking lot. I approached the library building from the opposite direction I usually do, and saw a four foot tall brick column standing next to one of the buildings. There was an old-looking stone plaque inserted in the middle of the monument that said "Collegium St. Joseph".

I was intrigued, and stopped for a closer look. A brass tablet on top of the column gave this information:
St. Joseph Seminary
Laid August 27, 1889

The seminary served the order of the Redemptorist priests founded in Naples, Italy in 1732. The 80 acre site where St. Louis Community College at Meramec now stands was purchased in 1888.

Meramec continued the establishment of education facilities on this site in 1964.
I had no idea about this land's early history, so after I got home, I did some research, and found:
  • A very old (1957) area street guide showed the area blocked out and called St. Joseph's College.
  • According to Wikipedia, the proper name for Redemptorist order is the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Joseph’s College was a Redemptorist minor seminary (a secondary boarding school for teenage boys who have expressed interest in becoming priests) in Kirkwood, Missouri. They came after elementary school, and were prepared academically and spiritually for later entry into a major seminary, where they studied for the priesthood.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any information about why the college was closed in the early 1960s. None of the original buildings is standing on the Meramec campus; except for the brick column, St. Joseph's Colleges seems to have disappeared into thin air!


  1. Wow! That is one creative new thing!

  2. The college was moved to Edgerton, Wisconsin.
    I emailed a freind of mine who knows more about the story then I do. There are some pictures around of the old buildings. I'll see if I can find one or the other.
    Ron Ziuraitis

  3. Ron-Thank you SO much! I was hoping that someone would be able to help me...the Internet sure couldn't :-)

  4. Hi Kathy,
    I am the mysterious friend of Ron's! The Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers moved their seminary in the late 1880's from Kansas City to Kirkwood, MO. It would have been the equivalent to high school and two years of college. Growing numbers, but especially an aging building, which was actually sinking, got them to look at building on another site, in Wisconsin. The move took place in 1960, I believe. It was said that the land was swampy and could not support a building but beautiful Meremac is there, which I have visited a few times. The Redemptorists have been at St. Alphonsus (The Rock) Church in Midtown St. Louis since 1866 and had founded and staffed St. Gerard's in Kirkwood and Mary Mother of the Church in what we used to call Mattese, MO on Kerth Rd. The novitiate was in DeSoto, MO for so many years, till it burned down. Didnt you burn it down, Ron? Just kidding! Blessings.
    Fr. Ed Vella, CSsR

  5. Fr. Vella-thanks for the information. I enjoy learning about the things right under my nose in St. Louis.

    I've been to St. Gerard, but Mass at St. Alphonsus is still on my list of things to do.

  6. I'm sending you by email the only picture I could find of the old St. Joe's at Kirkwood. I know I have a couple more but can't find them right now. Incidently, if you are really interested in the history of the cssr's in that part of Missoui you should venture out to St. Clements Health Care Center at Ligouri, Mo. ( near Barnhart). Some of the men who went to school and/or taught at St. Joes are now residents there

  7. Hey Jackie, I see you are from Minneapolis. I lived there for 10 years. ('73 to '83) I was a nurse at the Chanhassen Treatment Center (defunct) and the old Hennepin County Detox at 1800 Chicago. I'm retired now, and my wife and I live in San Antonio. Fr. Vella lived in Minneapolis, until just recently, too.

  8. my mom grew up on Couch Ave. across the street from St. Joseph's College---as a child she would ice skate on the pond there and swim at the pool---her family would also attend mass there---I have an old postcard photo of the college---but can't figure out how to post it here----Jennifer Coulter

    1. Jennifer, thanks for stopping by! The area has sure changed, hasn't it?