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Old Buildings Lead to New Beginnings

St. Ambrose University is growing again to accommodate the expanding student body. LeClaire Hall is the latest investment on campus.

Since the founding of St. Ambrose in 1882, the administration has found many projects to enhance the quality of student life and improve academic growth. 

One of the largest projects on campus, the Lewis Hall reconstruction displayed how dedicated St. Ambrose wanted to become with their science program. The original building was constructed in 1929, and was written in the Ambrose Scene as the “oldest unremodeled science building on any college or university campus in Iowa.” 

Image Courtesy: St Ambrose Archives and Ambrose Scene Magazine

In 1988, then President Edward Rogalski, authorized a complete overhaul of the interior. This renovation added storage, new electricity and plumbing. The entire project cost the university 3.2 million dollars, including a 1.5 million dollar grant from the Iowa government.

Image Courtesy: St Ambrose Archives

Beginning 20 years before work began on Lewis Hall, 1968 was the start of what we know today as the Galvin Fine Arts Center. Construction on this center was stalled for a couple of years due to workers strikes and bad weather, finally finished in 1971. Which brought much needed relief to students and staff in the music department.

“Anybody could have ripped off a $30,000 grand piano,” the Ambrose Magazine reported in 1989.

Faculty soon realized after construction was completed the building had some critical flaws. The flat roof couldn’t handle our Iowa winter, and in 1997 melting snow leaked into KALA. The next year a faulty check valve flooded SAUtv, while no technology was damaged; later in 2003 5,000 dollars worth of lighting equipment was stolen from the theater department.

Compared to Lewis Hall, and the ongoing construction at LeClaire Hall, Galvin cost the university 1.8 million dollars. As of now, according to Brian Rossmiller, LeClaire Hall is estimated to cost 8.8 million dollars.

Photo Courtesy: St Ambrose Archives

Originally meant as an athletics facility, LeClaire Hall was furnished with a full basketball court, indoor track and a swimming pool. Once the Wellness and Recreation Center was built, LeClaire became a space for the band to practice, and doubled as a storage space. 

“During construction we’ve found some things like rust from the pool and asbestos, which has impacted our schedule slightly,” Rossmiller said.

Photo Courtesy: St. Ambrose University

When it’s completed in August 2023, LeClaire Hall will hold five new classrooms and about 20 new offices for staff. Rossmiller also mentioned “St. Ambrose doesn’t do things part way,” by ensuring the building will be structurally sound, as well as adding new amenities. On the exterior while the facade will remain the same there will be a pathway directly connecting the Davis Hall parking lot to LeClaire Hall.