Mount Artifacts Find Home At Conservatory of Music

While Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy exists only in memory now, visible reminders of the fabled school are being placed in a new facility at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Donated artifacts from the former school have been incorporated in the design and furnishings of a repurposed area on the lower level of the university’s Center for Educational Technologies. University officials have dubbed the building’s first floor as the Mount de Chantal Conservatory of Music.

The facility, which will be unveiled officially next weekend, features a new recital hall, a room designated as the Sisters of the Visitation Gallery, a modern parlor and a lobby connecting the new rooms.

The university stands on land that once belonged to Mount de Chantal, which was located adjacent to the college. The 160-year-old academy closed in May 2008. Wheeling Hospital, which purchased the remaining Mount property after the private school’s closure, later demolished the academy’s main building.

Upon entering the center’s lower-level lobby, visitors will notice one of the distinctive windows from the Mount’s art studio. The iconic window has been restored and installed in an interior wall of the lobby.

Kathryn Kelly, special officer for university initiatives and donor relations, said the original window, donated by Frank Calabrese of Wheeling, was restored by Ye Olde Renovators of Triadelphia.

“This is our highlight,” she said, referring to the window.

“It’s remarkable what Ye Olde Renovators were able to do (with the window),” she said. “The surrounding trim was re-created for us by Hoff Enterprises of Johnstown, Pa.”

Kelly, who also is a Mount alumna, related that Oglebay Institute glass curator Holly McCluskey said the window glass has a rose tint, caused by “a chemical reaction with sunlight and manganese from all those years.”

A Persian rug donated by Mount alumna Sally Slater Pierce will be placed on the floor of the lobby, Kelly said.

To the left of the lobby, visitors with ties to the Mount will see another familiar sight: the original front door of the academy’s main building. The door, given to WJU by the Sisters of the Visitation, also was restored by Ye Olde Renovators. “The glass in the door and in the side lights is all original,” Kelly said. Hoff Enterprises built the woodwork surrounding the door.

Enhancing the historic ambience, the original brass doorbell from the Mount will be installed inside the doorway of the gallery, she added.

The Sisters of the Visitation also have given the university two chandeliers from the former school. One chandelier, which hung in the parents’ parlor, has been placed in the center of the new gallery, set in a section of original tin ceiling with an original tin medallion from the Mount. That particular chandelier had been a gift to the nuns from a Wheeling woman, Kelly said.

The other chandelier – from Mount de Chantal’s entry hall – has been installed in the parlor, located to the right of the lobby. The open area is equipped with new furniture.

Donated artwork from the Mount will be displayed in the Sisters of the Visitation Gallery. These items will include a bust of composer Franz Liszt, given by Mount alumna Michelle Dufalla, and a bust of Pope Pius X, on loan from Laura Stewart of Wheeling. Students in Belmont College’s building restoration and preservation program cleaned the Liszt figure prior to its placement in the gallery, Kelly said.

Dufalla also donated a large painting that she bought at an auction of Mount memorabilia, Kelly said. The picture, likely painted by a sister before the turn of the 20th century, depicts St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, and once was displayed in the school’s Music Hall, she added.

The Sisters of the Visitation have given a print of a well-known painting, done by the late artist George Carey, showing the front of the school and its entrance circle.

Also to be shown in the gallery is a photographic reproduction of the famous painting, done by G.P.A. Healy, of 1867 Mount music graduate Romaine Goddard playing a harp. The original Healy painting, which hung in the school’s main hallway, is at Georgetown Visitation Monastery in Washington, D.C., where the remaining Mount de Chantal sisters now reside.

The photographic reproduction of the Healy painting will be displayed above the childhood piano of Sister Joanne Gonter, a former teacher and superior at the Mount. Gonter, a graduate of both Mount de Chantal and Wheeling College, donated the instrument for the room.

The gallery’s displays will include a photographic image of a stained glass window (depicting the Most Rev. Richard Whelan, bishop of Wheeling, giving plans for the Mount building to the sisters) that had been part of the Mount de Chantal Chapel; Mount alumna Anne Hazlett Foreman’s painting of the school’s porch; framed sheet music given by the sisters; a series of framed papal indulgences and a sister’s picture given by Bob Hagedorn; a copy of an album, “This Is Our Lucky Day,” recorded by the school’s glee club in the early 1960s, and some pieces of furniture from the school.

“This picture of a nun was a mystery,” Kelly said. The picture bears the dates 1893 and 1913. It is thought to have belonged to Sister Marguerite Corrigan, who made her first profession of vows in 1893 and celebrated her 25th anniversary in 1913. Kelly said Gonter theorized that the picture depicts Sister Margaret Mary, Corrigan’s patron saint, and possibly was created as a jubilee gift for Corrigan.

The new facility’s recital hall has been constructed in space formerly occupied by WJU’s Classroom of the Future. The hall features a stage that runs the length of the room with wooden flooring, a sound system and a mechanized curtain around the perimeter of the stage. “Musical clouds were designed to reflect or deflect sound in appropriate proportions,” Kelly said.

Don and Beth Mercer of Wheeling and their family have donated a Steinway 5 1/2-foot grand piano that belonged to his father, the late Loran Mercer, who was a longtime music educator in Ohio County.

Four rows of chairs provide seating for 112 people in the “intimate” hall, Kelly said.

The stacking chairs can be moved and reconfigured for multiple purposes, she explained.

The hall can be used for recitals, chamber music concerts, small dramatic productions, lectures, classes, meetings and films, she said.

A “green room” for performers, storage rooms and offices are located adjacent to the hall.

University officials and the Sisters of the Visitation will hold an open house at the new facility from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. Students from the university’s choirs and symphonic band will guide visitors through the various spaces.

Mount de Chantal graduates from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including Mollie O’Brien, Vera Barton-Caro, Ruthann Eckersberg and Katie Pierson, will perform during the event.

“What began as a dream several years ago during visits with the Sisters of the Visitation has finally come to fruition, and we at Wheeling Jesuit are very pleased to announce completion of the first phase of our new music facility that bears the name ‘Mount de Chantal,'” the Rev. James J. Fleming, S.J., university president, said in a statement. “This expansion provides our students with ideal spaces for study, practice and performance, and it honors the legacy of the Mount and the Visitation Sisters – our longtime friends.”

Gonter, who plans to attend the opening festivities, stated, “We have followed the development of this project every step of the way with great faith and enthusiasm, and we are overjoyed.”

University officials said the recital hall will be the center of musical activity at Wheeling Jesuit. Current offerings are a symphonic band, led by Dr. James Gourlay, and the chamber singers and chapel choirs, under the leadership of Robert Troeger.