This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Past Chapel

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is part of that series of posts.)

What, you may wonder, are the Creekside Apartments, with their new metal roof that were installed earlier this year, doing on a Sunday post? What religious connection do they have?
When I came to town this building was not an apartment building, but the Star-Lite Motel. It advertised that it had 25 units. Within a few years, it was out of business. I-65 had opened a few years earlier and had reduced the flow of traffic through Rensselaer. It would be interesting to know how the owners tried to compensate for the change in the traffic patterns.

In 1979 it reopened as the St. Bonaventure Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscans. Men who wanted to become Franciscan brothers or priests spent a year here praying and reflecting. The Novitiate had moved from its old quarters, a large mansion in Lake Forest, IL that had been built as a summer home by a wealthy family. It had become too expensive to heat. (The source of this information is the History of Jasper County, Indiana, 1985.)

In converting the motel into a novitiate, the Franciscans made a number of changes. They added common area in the middle, and they built a chapel. I have never been in this building, but I think the old chapel is above the mail boxes in the picture below.
The Franciscans kept to themselves. I never interacted with them or was much aware that they were there. Eventually they left and Saint Joseph's College bought the building. For a year or maybe two, they used it for student housing. The number of women students exceeded the housing that they had reserved for female students. There were substantial problems in this solution, one of which was the water. (Imagine that--water problems in the area of the Houston subdivision.) After owning it for two years, the college sold it, and it was converted to its present use, apartments.

If you have more details on the history of this building (such as the dates when the Franciscans left and when SJC sold it), feel free to add them in the comments.

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