How it All Began
According to A Lasting Ideal in a Changing World: A History of Marist College, by Dennis J. Murray, the Marist Brothers purchased land from Thomas J. McPherson located along the Hudson River just north of the Poughkeepsie City limits, on February 28th, 1905.
Murray went on to say that the Marist Brothers made several alterations to adapt the land to their liking. Three years later, the Marist Brothers purchased a 110-acre estate. This land, which was owned by Edward Beck and known as the Bech estate or Roselund Estate, was sold to the Marist Brothers in 1908.
John P Murray, a member of the Coudert Brothers law firm, loaned the Brothers the money to purchase the Bech property. Murray then realized that the Marist Brothers had not obtained legal permission to the 1905 purchase. Three days before acquiring the Beck property, the Marist Brothers paid Brother Zephiriny and his sister $100 for the McPherson property.
Throughout out the years Marist College has gone through many changes and renovations; buildings have been removed, buildings have been built, and some buildings have remained the same. In fact, there are only three buildings that remain from the original campus in 1908.
The Original Buildings
Greystone was built in 1865 as a carriage house; a hayloft occupied the top floor, carriages on the middle floor, and a blacksmith shop occupied the lowest level.
The building previously served as a dorm, classrooms, science labs, and a library. Former College President, Linus Richard Foy, had a chance to live in Greystone after it was renovated in 1965.
“As Donnelly began opening up, one of the moves was to move the library out of Greystone,” Foy said. “When I came back (from a sabbatical), Nilus (Donnelly) had prepared the top floor of Greystone as a presidential office. So I moved in there.” (referencing an interview with Marist College professor, Gus Nolan and Foy).
Greystone closely resembled the style of St. Peter’s and the Kieran Gatehouse when it was first constructed and was nicknamed “Greystone” by the Marist Brothers on campus, because of its stonewalls.
According to Marist Archives, the structure of St. Peter’s was originally built in 1865, and was purchased by the Marist Brothers in 1908. Until 1969, St. Peter’s served as a residence for the Marist Brothers. Currently it houses administrative offices. It is named St. Peter’s because the Brothers who lived there from 1909 until 1936 taught in St. Peter’s school in Poughkeepsie.
As the years went on there were additions made to the building. The first addition was put on the front of the building toward the road passing in front of it. This addition was used as an office for Brother Donnelly, who was constructing new buildings on the property. Another addition was built on the side of St. Peter’s facing Route 9. This part of the building housed faculty of Marist College. It also housed the print shop, which was used to print documents for the College.
These additions were later demolished in 1969, when the print shop was moved to the gym and the faculty was moved to Benoit House and the facade of the original building was restored to its former design.
It also turns out that St. Peter’s was the place where Marist got its name. Brother Joseph Belanger spoke to Marist College Archivist, John Ansley about the change from Marian College to Marist College.
One Sunday afternoon, in the basement of St. Peter’s, after the Giants football game, we (Belanger and Brother John Malachy) talked and Malachy said, “I can’t get anybody to come to Marian College, we’ve got to change this name.” It was then, by a very casual vote, on a Sunday, late afternoon, we said, “Why don’t we call it Marist; that way everybody around the world will know, recognize Marist.”
Today, St. Peter’s currently houses the staff of the Marist Upward Bound program.
The Kieran Gatehouse
The Gatehouse dates back to 1865 and was a gatehouse on the estate purchased by the Marist Brothers in 1908. The gatehouse is also on listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places.
It was first used as a headquarters for the Poughkeepsie Province of the Marist Brothers and then as an office space and a private residence. Brother Paul Ambrose Fontaine used the Gatehouse as his office when he was the President of the College.
The Gatehouse was renamed the Kieran Gatehouse in October 1990 when it was dedicated to the late Brother Kieran Thomas Brennan. Brother Brennan was a long-time trustee of Marist College and also the director of student Brothers from 1954 to 1964.
Buildings That Have Been Removed
The Adrian Building
The Adrian Building was named after Brother Adrian August who was a Chemistry and Music professor at Marist College.
In an interview with Ansley, Brother Richard Rancourt praised Brother August.
“He was a great musician and so he taught me,” Rancourt said. “He encouraged me to develop my musical talents.”
Adrian was a small one-story building located across the road from Donnelly Hall. Its first use was as a place where students could meet with guests. Day students used it as a place to study, eat lunch, and relax. It contained a sitting room, an entertainment audio center, and an office for Brother Nilus Donnelly. In later years it served the needs of the Alumni office and the Marist Poll.
It was removed in 2000 for the construction of the James A. Cannavino Library. The commuter lounge was moved to the Student Center and the Alumni office and Marist Poll were both relocated to the new Fontaine Hall.
The Marist Poll is now located in the Hancock Center after it opened in 2011.
The Benoit & Gregory Houses
These houses were constructed in 1968, as lodging for the Marist Brothers living on campus. The residences were constructed exactly the same. The main section, octagonal in design, contained sixteen bedrooms, which allowed for Benoit and Gregory to house 32 students each.
The Benoit House honored the memory of Brother Fancis Xavier Benoit who taught at Marist for nineteen years, while serving also as a Director of Construction for the Marist Brothers.
Gregory House was named in memory of Brother Joseph Gregory Marchessault who was chairman of the Physics Department at Marist until the time of his death in 1969.
The houses were recently removed when the construction began for the new Hancock Center.
St. Ann’s Hermitage
In 1905, St. Ann’s Hermitage was the first building in Poughkeepsie purchased by the Marist Brothers. It had previously been the farmhouse of the MacPherson family. This building was used as a Local House until the early 1950s.
In addition to the local administration, it also housed the Scholastics usually numbering around 75 students. Others living in this building included a farmer who took care of the cows and pigs, and farmers who took care of a greenhouse which was located across from St. Peter’s. Also located in this building, was the infirmary.
Between 1955 and 1957 the original Fontaine Hall was built to house the scholastics, the faculty was moved to St. Peter’s, and the farmers were moved to St. Peter’s leaving the Hermitage empty. In 1958, it was decided the building should be demolished. However, before the demolition was completed the building caught fire and burned to the ground.
In 1997 the College purchased a private residence that has been renamed St. Ann’s in memory of the building. This building is now part of the area known as Fern Tor, which is adjacent to Marist College’s northern boundary.
Before the New Fontaine Hall was built in May of 2000, there was the original Fontaine Hall. The hall was named after Brother Paul Ambrose Fontaine, a Life Trustee of the College. The original Fontaine Hall served as a study hall and dining room for the student Brothers at Marist College. It was constructed by the Marist Brothers in 1956, and later an addition was made to serve as a dormitory for the student Brothers.
According to Nolan, Brother Brian Henry Desilets told him that they built the extension on Fontaine because, “The MacPherson building was becoming unsafe.”
The original part of the building served as a library until shortly before the Cannavino Library was built. With the decision to construct the Cannavino Library on the same site, the original Fontaine Hall was destroyed. The newly named Fontaine Hall opened in 2000, to house the offices of the School of Liberal Arts on the northern end of campus.
For this story I talked to John Ansley. Ansley was hired by the college in 2000, and is the first professional archivist that Marist has ever had.
“I am really lucky to have been here for 13 years,” Ansley said. “I am here to serve the students, and support the research needs of the college.”
- “Marist Building and Place Names.” Marist Building and Place Names. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <http://library.marist.edu/archives/MHP_new/building.htm>.
- Murray, Dennis J. “A Lasting Ideal in a Changing World: A History of Marist College by Dennis J. Murray.” Marist Archives and Special Collections. Dutchess County Historical Society, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2013. <http://library.marist.edu/archives/writtenHistory/murrayArticle.html>.