Mysteries on the ridge: St. Vincent’s Hall

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By: Madison Ruffo

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – It’s 10:05 a.m. on a Monday morning. You’re rushing to your class in Vinnie’s because the Tim Horton’s line was too long, but having your morning coffee is worth being a few minutes late. Rather than taking the stairs up to the third floor – which everyone knows are faster – you wait for the elevator with everyone else. Everyone packs themselves into the elevator like sardines as they finally catch their breath and take their first sip of coffee.

Then someone inevitably says, “I would’ve taken the stairs if there wasn’t that extra flight,” which prompts a discussion about why exactly there is an extra flight of stairs between the second and third floors of St. Vincent’s Hall. Theories are tossed around the elevator, the most popular of them being the previous presence of a swimming pool on the third floor, but what exactly is the reason behind this mysterious extra flight of stairs?

The rumors are true – partially. There was once a swimming pool in Vinnie’s, but it was not on the third floor like rumor suggests. St. Vincent Hall was built in 1906 as a multipurpose building on campus. The first floor housed the well-known swimming pool, while the second floor was study halls, the third was dormitories and the fourth was home to Niagara University’s gymnasium.

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Image by Niagara University Library Archives

In fact, all of this information is stated on the sign that is directly outside of St. Vincent’s Hall. The sign also includes pictures of St. Vincent’s Hall before, during and after its famous reconstruction in 2001 that made the fourth floor home to the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

But that still doesn’t answer the question of why there’s an extra flight of stairs. In 1953, Vinnie’s underwent major construction to remove the dormitories, which housed 150 students, from the third floor, and lowered the once 19-foot high ceiling of the second floor down to the standard 12-feet. That’s it. They just lowered the ceiling.

While the truth that lies behind this extra flight of stairs is not the most exciting, it does prompt some other questions. Where did the students go after the dorms were changed to classrooms, when did the gym move to the Gallagher Center, and what happened to the pool?

IMG_1458Immediately after the completion of the Gallagher Center in the early 1950s, the gym found its new home there. In 1939, the six Varsity Village houses were constructed to replace the dorms in Vinnie’s and housed senior male students. However, six houses were not going to fit the 150 students that occupied the third floor of Vinnie’s. So in 1946, the Terzi dorms were build as a response to a jump in enrollment. These three buildings, located directly east of the Varsity Village houses, housed around 200 incoming freshmen and returning veterans. Lastly, the Kiernan Center was constructed in 1989 and is currently home to NU’s swimming pool.

Now, when everyone is shoulder-to-shoulder in the Vinnie’s elevator theorizing about the truth behind the extra flight of stairs, you’ll have an answer for them – they lowered the ceiling.

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Featured image by Niagara University Library Archives.

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