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Dominican Sisters plan a final memorial to Siena Hall

Siena Hall
Dominican Sisters
Siena Hall

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield will hold an open house for graduates of Sacred Heart Academy who lived at Siena Hall as students. It will be a final memorial to the building before it is razed this year.

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. Anyone who boarded at the school is welcome. 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 two story building is located along W. Washington St.

“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,” the letter said.

According to a news release, 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, which they occupied in October 2022.

A three-step 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. Most of 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 after the March 12 open house and the removal of the auctioned items.

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 5 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.

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