Heritage Week showcases Riedinger House
Rebecca O'Neil | Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The mystery of Riedinger House has been dispelled. Heritage Week 2014 featured annual tours of the ‘Model House,’ an inconspicuous English cottage located directly west of Moreau Center for the Arts and north of Holy Cross Hall, on Monday.
The brick and stone building, which stands as a subtle statement of Saint Mary’s rich history, was built in 1939. The 75 year-old house was commissioned by the first legacy family of Saint Mary’s College, said Kara O’Leary, director of Alumnae Relations.
“Adaline Crowley Riedinger, class of 1864, was the first alumna to send her daughter, Mary Adalaide Riedinger [class of 1889] to Saint Mary’s to graduate,” O’Leary said. “1939 would have been Adaline’s diamond jubilee and golden anniversary of her daughter.”
The family contributed $5,000, a significant portion of the final cost of production which would be the equivalent of $21,272 in the modern era, O’Leary said.
“When it became known that the house would cost more than was planned, it was decided to save money by building the house to 7/8 scale,” O’Leary said.
This downsize is extremely apparent in the low ceiling of the first-floor powder room, said John Kovach, Saint Mary’s archivist. He said one of the rooms even requires visitors to turn sideways to fit into the doorway.
“From the outside, the Riedinger House appears to be a full-size house, it’s only when you walk through the doorway that you see it’s somewhat smaller,” Kovach said.
Kovach said the building was originally designed and used as a laboratory for home economics majors, a bachelor degree at the time.
”You’d have your folks who lived there and basically run a household and you would have to work,” Kovach said. “It was quite domestic.”
The major, which offered classes in thrift and the conservation of food, was originally designed during the government’s push for domestic aid during World War II, Kovach said.
“The residents were expected to maintain the household under a certain budget,” O’Leary said.
The home economics degree was phased out in the 1960s, but the Riedinger House has retained its homey allure, Kovach said
“It’s just very picturesque. It’s very period. You feel very comfortable in there,” Kovach said. “I know when it’s open for tours in the spring time all the women who have worked here in the archives who have gone on that tour want to come back there to live.
“The decorating was supervised by Sister Madeleva herself.”
The house is currently used for official guests of the college, which includes members of advisory boards, the Board of Trustees, the Alumnae associate board of directors and the Madeleva Society Steering Committee. Commencement speakers, guest lecturers and recipients of honorary degrees are also permitted to stay in Riedinger House.
“When you get into the little yard there it’s kind of like you’re away from everything,” Kovach said. “It would be a fun place to live.”