The Scholarly Sleuth
A year since Veronika Paprocka ’17 started researching the history of St. Kate’s buildings on the St. Paul campus, she’s still at it. In fact, the detective work this history major is doing for her Antonian Scholars senior honors project will include an online resource to share with the world.
“I’ve always been interested in why the campus is the way it is — why we have fallout shelter signs on buildings, why the windows in Derham stairwells are at different heights,” Paprocka says. “It’s very obvious that spaces aren’t cohesive, and there are a lot of oddities left behind — I want to know the stories behind them.”
Here are her top 3 surprises from her project research so far::
1. True Katies — Whitby and Derham Halls, the first two campus buildings, served a plethora of functions in the University’s early days. For example, students ate and slept in Whitby, and Derham housed both the chapel and the library for a time. “I just did the math, and it blew my mind that it took 98 years for people to stop living in Whitby,” she says. With St. Kate’s tradition of adapting to the challenges of the moment, it’s no wonder Paprocka dubs this duo the “true Katies of buildings.”
2. Fallout shelters — During the Cold War, the Office of Civil Defense assessed St. Kate’s buildings and deemed them fit to serve as emergency fallout shelters for the Highland Park neighborhood. But while the food, water, and other supplies stocked by the federal office were removed after the War, it left one surprise for us: cardboard toilets. “That was one of my favorite moments; finding those cardboard toilets. They’re like barrels.” …an unlikely souvenir from the Cold War!
3. Mystery chandeliers — The Chapel once boasted beautiful chandeliers, elegant lamps suspended from circular frames. But, look up today and all you’ll see are black pegs and empty rings. “The entire Chapel was lined with stunning chandeliers, and they’re all gone!” And, adds Paprocka, there is no documentation of either the date they were removed or what became of them after their removal. “It keeps a person up at night!”
“In general,” she says, “people are very proud when they build and make additions, and there is always documentation — receipts and plans — for them. But then, when things are taken out, there is little or no record. I find this very interesting in terms of how we work as people and what we deem important or interesting at the time.”
To that end, Paprocka has taken it upon herself to document changes occurring on campus — changes which may otherwise escape notice. The new carpet in Derham Hall? She took photos of that floor before it was refurnished.
Curious about the other peculiar objects and tales she’s dug up? Well, all shall be revealed on March 3 when she presents at 3 p.m. in the Visual Arts Lecture Hall. (Or peruse her investigation online, stkate.edu/honors-projects, late March.)
Michelle Mullowney is a senior majoring in French, with a double minor in philosophy and communication studies.