ATCHISON The Benedictine sisters of Mount St. Scholastica are asking city officials to let them raze an 81-year-old building that once housed a school for girls but is now too expensive to maintain.
"It's been ongoing," Prioress Sister Anne Shepard said of the struggle for a decision. "A high percentage of the sisters have personal attachment to the building either through the Mount Saint Scholastica Academy or Mount Saint Scholastica College."
Built in 1924, the 170,780-square-foot, five-story brick structure - called the Mount St. Scholastica Administration Building - contained classrooms, an auditorium, a gymnasium, administrative headquarters and living quarters.
Mount St. Scholastica College merged with St. Benedict's College in 1971 to form Benedictine. Classes continued to take place on the Mount St. Scholastica campus until 1989.
Over the next 16 years, the building has housed for- and nonprofits, as well as a dwindling number of nuns. But the building became increasingly costly to maintain. Between 1991 and 2003, records show more than $948,483 was spent on capital improvements.
New estimates are that it might cost up to $5.9 million for repair needs, Americans with Disability Act compliance issues and fire code updates.
But because of the building's age and location, officials from the Kansas State Historical Society weighed in on the possible demolition. Christy Davis, preservation officer for the agency, wrote to city officials that the state found that demolition would impact nearby historical properties.
The building is attached to the nationally registered historic Saint Cecilias, which houses the Mount Conservatory of Music.
Davis also suggested possible redevelopment options.
But the sisters said they had sought other uses for the building, including housing for the elderly.
"The administration building has served the academy and college well," said Sister Mary Agnes Patterson, director of development and communication. "But it has outlived its purpose."