BY BARBARA VAUGHN ’83 | ILLUSTRATIONS BY ROBERTA AVIDOR
Whitby Hall is St. Catherine University’s utility player. Initially named College Hall when it opened in 1914 — and often referred to as "the other building" — Whitby was built to accommodate the possibilities of the growing College of St. Catherine. In the years since, it has evolved with the institution.
When Whitby opened as St. Kate’s second building in the fall of 1914 — housing three large science labs, a domestic science department, a music room, a parlor, art studios and much-needed dormitory space — enrollment at the College was 30 students. By 1920, there were 218. Mother Antonia McHugh’s vision for the College ensured that all the space available in the new hall would be used. Like everyone — and everything — else on campus, the building was expected to perform to its full potential.
Many programs and departments began in Whitby and moved as new campus buildings were constructed: science to Mendel in 1927, physical education to Fontbonne in 1932, home economics to St. Joseph’s in 1954, music and theater to the O’Shaughnessy in 1970 and the art department to the Fine Arts Center in 1971.
The spaces left behind in Whitby quickly became home to new departments and programs. The lunchroom became classrooms. The home economics suite evolved into a language lab. The gymnasium beneath Jeanne d’Arc Auditorium was transformed into two floors of academic space for the nursing department.
Now, in its latest metamorphosis, Whitby Hall houses some of the primary programs in the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, which received a $20 million perpetual legacy grant in 2008. The gift allowed for the transformation of the building’s third floor to healthcare offices and classrooms, including new respiratory care labs.
In many ways Whitby Hall looks the same as it did 95 years ago. Offices line the corridors, their doors propped open to invite students in. Wood crown moldings and baseboards frame the walls and large windows. Katies rush to their classes. Today, Whitby houses the English, Spanish, French, classical languages, history, philosophy, political science, economics and theology departments. Whitby also hosts nursing offices, classrooms and laboratories.
At one time or another, all four floors of Whitby have included resident rooms. The thousands of Katies who have called Whitby home have studied in its classrooms, danced — and even biked — in its wide hallways, cooked birthday meals in its basement kitchen, sat on its ledges, posed for hall photographs on its south steps and even climbed on its roof.
Katies who didn’t reside in Whitby also feel strong connections to the building. Commuter students had lockers and a lounge on the ground floor. Most Katies have taken at least one class in Whitby because it is home to many of the liberal arts departments.
Whitby Hall’s history is one of innovation, transition and tradition. And that story continues today.