Sts. Louis, Elizabeth Halls damaged in fire, flood

Contributing Writer

Louis/Liz construction
Photo by Elizabeth Bunnell

The St. Louis and St. Elizabeth residence halls were cleared of scaffolding and construction equipment on Jan. 25, after a flood and a fire left the building in need of two weeks worth of repairs.

Beginning Jan. 7, residents of Sts. Louis and Elizabeth residence halls were forced to live around scaffolding and machinery. In addition to the construction equipment in the lobbies and other common spaces, residents had to deal with the absence of the Blessed Sacrament in the hall chapel and the lack of wireless internet in the lobbies.

These complications were the result of a pipe that burst in the St. Louis and St. Elizabeth halls’ chapel, prior to the return of most residents.

At 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, a sprinkler pipe in the building’s chapel burst. The pipe, which had become frozen after severe winds blew a small hole in the roof of the building, dumped hundreds of gallons of water into the chapel. Water then leaked out into the third floor lobby and spread into third floor St. Louis Hall men’s rooms.

The dormitories’ residence life staff and a Jefferson security officer were able to quickly cut off water flow to the building. Physical Plant employees and athletes who had returned to the dorm early also assisted by saving items in the rooms threatened by water.

Later that same day, a small electrical fire erupted in the first floor lobby of the building. 

The fire, which started around 9:30 p.m., was quickly extinguished by Physical Plant workers. An air conditioning unit, which was determined to be the source of the fire, was the only object damaged.

As returning students arrived at the damaged building on Jan. 12, they were amazed to see the resulting construction. For almost two weeks, residents were forced to live and work around the maintenance.

During this time, one of the most serious problems residents faced was the absence of the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel. Instead of being able to pray in the presence of the Eucharist within their own building, residents were forced to go to surrounding dormitories or Christ the King Chapel.

“The lack of Jesus’ Eucharistic presence was definitely felt,” said Mary Clare McLaughlin, a resident of St. Elizabeth Hall. “Kolbe and Clare Hall was very welcoming to the residents of Louis and Elizabeth, though.”

Beyond the lack of the Blessed Sacrament in their chapel, residents also had to cope with the lack of wireless Internet in the lobbies and the presence of scaffolding and construction machinery.

“In general, it caused the dorm to feel more like a construction zone than a home,” said Mariah Wilkins, who also lives in Elizabeth Hall.

Despite having to put up with these consequences and difficulties, life in St. Louis and St. Elizabeth Halls is nearly back to normal. Wireless Internet was returned to the lobbies on Jan. 15, and the Eucharist was returned to the chapel on Jan. 21.

With the scaffolding and other construction equipment removed from the building on Friday, residents can now fully enjoy their home away from home.

“The Res-Life staff and Physical Plant have done a great job fixing the place up,” said Caleb Knorr, a Louis Hall resident. “It’s finally starting to feel like a home again.”

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