Breur Dorms, 1967; St. Bernard Hall, St. Bernard Hall SW view and St. Boniface Hall, 2006 (click thumbnails for larger images)
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Architect: Marcel Breuer & Associates, New York.
Contractor: M.A. Mortenson Co.
Dates: Construction began in the spring of 1966 and was completed in the fall of 1967.
In August, 1965, there had been a suggestion to build a new dormitory next to Saint Thomas Hall so as to make a horseshoe pattern, but it was decided that it would not be feasible to house 800 students so close to each other. In October, 1965, a student committee met to discuss a new dormitory. Eventually a three-dorm plan to house 370 students was approved. It was thought that three smaller, separate dorms would be beneficial for increasing the number of groups coming to campus during the summer. Among these would be graduate students taking summer theology courses. Sports camps, choirs and other groups still are regularly housed in the Breuer or "tundra" dorms.
Plans for the new dorms included: reduction of excess noise by adding carpeting; increased space for books, especially for upperclassmen; facilities such as telephone service for individual rooms (an amenity on this campus in the mid-1960s), FM outlets for radios, and TV connections; more drinking fountains; and an inviting community space (lounges) rather than study halls. Perhaps if planners had known that students would put up strings of Christmas lights in the hallways they would have included more electrical outlets there.
Marcel Breuer, architect of the Abbey and University Church and Alcuin Library, was chosen to design the three new dorms on the west side of campus overlooking Lake Watab where the dairy operation had been. Construction began in the spring of 1966. Cost-cutting required that brick replace granite in the end walls. Side walls would imitate those of the new science hall designed by Breuer (1966), utilizing a web-like framework of windows and concrete sills. A switch from white to grey concrete was also made. A federal college housing fund loan of $2,080,000 covered approximately 85% of the total construction costs.
The Breuer dorms received improvements from technology over the years: typing lounges became computer access areas, student kitchenettes and hydration stations were added, and new LED ceiling light fixtures put more light deeper into residents' rooms.
The three Breuer dorms were blessed by SJU President Rev. Colman Barry, O.S.B. on August 13, 1967. In naming these three residences for Saint Bernard (1091-1153), Saint Patrick (ca. 389-ca. 461), and Saint Boniface (ca. 675-754), the monastic community and the university were honoring the patron saints of students and alumni of French, Irish and German descent.
Adapted, with permission, from an essay drafted by Michael Kwatera OSB
on the occasion of the Breuer dorms’ 50th anniversary in 2017.