Siena Hall to be Memorialized, Razed

SPRINGFIELD, ILL.—The Dominican Sisters of Springfield will hold an open house for graduates of Sacred Heart Academy who lived at Siena Hall as students, a final memorial to the building before it is razed sometime during the summer months.

While the building was most recently the residence of a community of monastic Dominican nuns, from 1949-1977 it operated as a student residence for the all-girls academy the Dominicans opened after they relocated from Jacksonville to Springfield in 1893.

The open house is scheduled for 1:00-3:00 p.m., Sunday, March 12, 2023. Anyone who boarded at the school is welcome to attend and an RSVP is required.

A brief prayer service is planned for 1:30 pm in the adjoining Aquinas Center. There will be an opportunity to walk around the building, time to share memories, and refreshments.

“Want to revisit your old haunt one last time?” the letter of invitation asks. “You and all those who called Siena Hall home in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s are invited to reconnect with your experience as a boarder and take one last walk-through in the place that was your ‘home away from home’ during your time at Sacred Heart Academy.”

The letter explains that Siena Hall, a two-story building located on W. Washington Street between Sacred Heart Convent chapel and the main campus of Sacred Heart-Griffin, is scheduled to be razed this summer. “While Siena Hall has served us well over the years—providing you with shelter, welcoming retreatants, and serving as a guest house for the family and friends of our sisters—it is time to say good-bye. Our use for the space is limited now and the cost of upkeep is out of proportion to its use.”

About the auction

Canterbury Auctions are offering an opportunity to purchase high-quality architectural building materials and furniture from Siena Hall. Buyers have a chance to purchase valuable building materials and other items prior to building demolition. Our goal is to salvage and recycle, not send to the landfill. It's also an opportunity to have something in remembrance of Siena Hall.

Once Siena Hall ceased operating as a residence for Sacred Heart Academy students, it was used as a temporary residence for Dominican sisters returning to Springfield for summer breaks or retreats. For a time, it served as the center for Benincasa Spiritual renewal. During that period Dominican Sisters on the Benincasa staff ran retreats for the public and the building was rented out for use by other groups. It once hosted enrichment programs for seminarians run by the diocese and other lay and interfaith groups benefited from the use of the facility.

In 2014 the building became home for the Dominican Nuns, serving as the Monastery of Mary the Queen. The nuns lived there until they could build a new monastery in Girard, Ill., which they occupied in October 2022.

A three-stage plan has been implemented to prepare Siena Hall for responsible demolition in the most sustainable way possible.

Stage one, which is complete, was to donate the contents of the building. All the furniture, beds, and bedding have been passed along to organizations serving the homeless in central Illinois.

Stage two is an auction of everything else in the building that can be repurposed elsewhere. Canterbury Auctions is managing the online-only event, which closes March 19. Bidders may view and bid on more than 400 items. Registered bidders who want to see the materials being auctioned may visit the facility 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, March 4. Once the auction closes bidders have three days to disassemble and cart away the items they purchased.

Stage three, asbestos remediation, will begin sometime after the removal of the auctioned items at the end of March.

Women who boarded at Siena Hall are welcome to attend the open house. They are asked to RSVP to Sister Ann Clennon, OP, herself a boarder and 1965 SHA graduate who is now prioress of the Sacred Heart Convent community. Please RSVP by March 10 to annclennon@spdom.org or by calling 217-787-0481.

Former boarders may share their memories and photos in advance of the event by emailing them to Sister Ann or mailing them to her attention at Siena Hall Memories, 1237 W. Monroe St., Springfield, IL 62704.

Know before you go

Siena Hall Open House

  • 1:00-3:00 p.m. Sunday, March 12
  • Women who boarded at Siena Hall are welcome
  • RSVP to Sister Ann Clennon by March 10 to annclennon@spdom.org or call 217-787-0481.
  • Share memories and photos in advance of the event by emailing them to Sister Ann or mailing them to her attention at Siena Hall Memories, 1237 W. Monroe St., Springfield, IL 62704.

10 thoughts on “Siena Hall to be Memorialized, Razed”

  1. I am thankful to have begun my association with the Spiritual Directors of Central Illinois there. I can still see Sr. Melanie Roetker waiting to let us in at the door! Thank you to the Springfield Dominican sisters for being so generous with your space for as long as you have….and continue to do. God bless you.

    1. Sister Beth Murphy

      Thank you Dan, for your kind words and shared memories. I can see Sister Melanie, too, at that door!

  2. Victoria S. Schmidt

    Theresians International, a Catholic ministry for women made their home in Siena Hall the last 21 years. It was a blessing to share space with the Dominican Sisters. I recently retired as their Executive Director. Siena was home to me every day, it was home base for me as I traveled the world with the Theresian organization. I’m so very grateful to the sisters for their generosity and kindness to us.

  3. My mother was a boarder 1939 to 1943. I always thought she lived at Siena Hall. Does anyone know where boarders resided prior to 1949?

    1. Sister Beth Murphy

      Katie I think I answered this for you privately, but others might like to know as well. Before 1950 when Siena Hall opened boarders lived on the third floor of the convent. That’s where your mom would have lived.

  4. My Spiritual life’s journey began under the guidance of the Dominican Sisters at St Thomas in Crystal Lake, Illinois and then my Freshman and Sophomores years (1962-1964) as a border at Sacred Heart’s Sienna Hall. Sisters Diana, Maria, Gretchen and Letitia were our house Sisters.
    So many wonderful blessings came through those women, so much love, comfort and sincere caring lives toward us. Thank you Sisters for instilling God’s love in me and teaching me the way to live a life of a God’s woman 🙏🏻❤️

    1. Sister Beth Murphy

      On behalf of all our Dominican Sisters who crossed your path, Betty, a profound thank you for sharing your story.

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