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Fordyce House



  • Existence: 1967 - circa 1997


On January 3, 1952 Harriet Frost Fordyce gave to Saint Louis University her estate of Hazelwood, located in the northwest suburb of Berkeley near what is now Lambert International Airport. Fordyce envisioned her residence as a refuge for University Jesuits from the noise and bustle of downtown St. Louis, but she was later persuaded to allow the house to be used for student retreats. Carroll M. Boland became the first director of Hazelwood in 1955.

Harriet Frost Fordyce died on November 21, 1960, having directed the Jesuits to sell Hazelwood and buy another property with the quiet and isolation that Hazelwood had lost. Hazelwood now found itself directly under the approach to one of the main runways of the airport, and the noise was heightened whenever McDonnell-Douglas tested aircraft engines or used the wind tunnel.

In 1962, after a long search for the right property, the University purchased a 70-acre tract on Mason Road west of Highway 270. Hazelwood, meanwhile, was demolished. While the purchase of the Mason Road land was underway, Mrs. Lewis I. Hutton continued to telephone the University about her desire to sell her home, Sun-Up, to the school at cost. This residence, also called Wilson House, was built in 1925-1926 on Grimsley Station Road in south St. Louis County by Sarah L.G. Wilson, granddaughter of the first mayor of St. Louis, William Carr Lane, and wife of mining engineer and lumberman Newton R. Wilson. Wilson had her house, a summer retreat, built in ranch style on one level, an unusual architectural style at the time but one necessitated by Wilson's habitual use of a wheelchair after breaking her hip. During the 1930s Dr. and Mrs. Hutton occupied Sun-Up, which got its name from the sunrise that illuminated the house as it faced east on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

The Retreat Committee, which had selected the Mason Road site for the University's next retreat house, was opposed by another committee recommending the purchase of Sun-Up. Eventually the University changed its plans and bought Sun-Up along with 40 acres of grounds.

Fordyce House, as the new retreat center was called, incorporated the house already on the site and expanded it to provide accommodation for 60 overnight guests. Fordyce House was dedicated on November 22, 1967 but had already hosted the first meeting of the first lay Board of Trustees of the University on June 24 of that year. M.B. (Matthias Benjamin, or Ben) Martin, S.J. was appointed Director of Fordyce House. By Jul of 1968 Fordyce House was already operating in the red. Compulsory retreats and University meetings did not provide enough revenue to run the facility, so Martin began to solicit the business of corporate management seminars. As corporate use grew, retreats were discontinued at Fordyce House and shifted to other sites at the University itself.

Martin died on July 24, 1973 and was succeeded as Director by Trafford P. Maher, S.J. Maher initiated the use of Fordyce House to offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for adult learners and beautified the interior of the center. Joseph G.Knapp, SJ. followed Maher as Director in October 1976, continuing the policy of maintaining close ties with the St. Louis business and civic communities. Fordyce House closed and was sold around 1997.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Fordyce House Records [DOC REC 4]

Identifier: DOC REC 4
Abstract The material making up the Fordyce House Records was picked up by Archives personnel at the request of the center's business manager in 1993. These records cover only the very fIrst years of the operation of Fordyce House. The larger part of the records consists of correspondence, subject files, information on the physical plant of the facility, and material on the various retreats and workshops held at Fordyce House. This collection is organized into ten series:  1. Minutes of Meetings; 2....
Dates: 1941-1989