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House guards memories of past

Kim Abeel | Friday, September 1, 2006

A mystery for many students and source of fond memories for many alumnae, the Riedinger House stands as a remembrance of things past on Saint Mary’s Campus.

Though no longer used for its original purpose, the house was built in 1939 for use for the student practicum required of all seniors majoring in domestic science, according to Barb Henry of the SMC Alumnae Relations Office.

Four students were assigned to live together in the house, along with a live-in supervisor, for a period of nine weeks., Henry said. While there, the students learned advanced home management skills by practicing efficient budget management, planning and preparing meals, shopping, cleaning, sewing and guest hosting and entertaining. While defunct by the mid-1960s, the College’s domestic science programs were considered rather advanced for the time, and students with concentrations in dietetics or nutrition were required to take several rigorous courses in biology and chemistry in addition to fulfilling laboratory requirements.

The program’s courses and laboratory sessions were conducted in what is now Holy Cross Residence Hall. The cost of the construction of the Riedinger practicum house was $21,272, a large portion of which was donated by the Adaline Crowley Riedinger Family. Riedinger, Class of 1864, was the first alumna to send her daughter, Mary Adalaide Riedinger, Class of 1889, to Saint Mary’s.

After an unexpected increase in expenses, however, plans for the house were changed to 7/8 scale. This reduction in size is noticeable primarily in the lowered ceilings, especially upon entering the powder room off the main foyer.

The house was furnished in Early-American style, and the bedrooms contained Georgian-period style furniture. Much of the original furniture remains today. The kitchen was considered state-of-the-art at the time of its construction and even included a dishwasher. There were three bedrooms-two for the students and one spacious room with a fireplace for the supervisor.

The bathroom was also unique for the time and was designed in such a way that all four students could use it simultaneously, yet with relative privacy. One area of the bathroom housed a tub, shower and sink; another area, a toilet and a sink; the third area, properly called a “dental lavatory,” contained two sinks and a full mirror.

The basement originally served as a state-of-the-art laundry facility, containing an electric wringer-washer and an automatic in-wall steam, dry and press unit.

After the domestic science program ended, Riedinger House was occupied in 1968 by Msgr. John McGrath. The house underwent a major renovation in the mid-1970s, and has been suitably maintained since. Much of the original furniture remains and has been reupholstered throughout the years.

Maintaining nearly all of its charm, the house still bears the original copper scalloped gutters, original casement windows and blue toile adorned dining room with original Hitchcock dining chairs. The house also contains one of Mother Madeleva’s personal bookcases, a silver tea service formerly of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and an original painting of Norman Laliberte, artist and former art instructor at the College from 1960 to 1965.

Today, the Riedinger House is used by official guests of the College, Alumnae or Trustee Board members or for faculty functions. The rich memorial gardens surrounding the House are open for public use. The House is not available for rent for alumnae weddings or reunions.