St. Joseph Indian Normal School
(also known as Drexel Hall)
in Rensselaer, Indiana

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Stories from Saint Joseph's College (Rensselaer):
The Canonization of Saint Katharine Drexel - (with two period photographs of school)
Original Pews From Indian Normal School Discovered

More information and photos about the school on a St. Joseph's College Wiki page.

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Drexel Hall from the front (looking east).
Built in 1888 as St. Joseph's Indian Normal School and later part of St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, which still owns the building, Drexel Hall is threatened by modern-age sprawl, which crouches within a few hundred feet of the landmark. Philadelphia banking heiress and nun Katharine Drexel, recently canonized by the Catholic Church, funded the construction of St. Joseph's Indian Normal School to educate American Indians for assimilation into the white culture. Believing that such schools were a way to "civilize" the West, the U.S. government funded the school's operation until it closed in 1896. The building then became Drexel Hall, one of the first structures of the new St. Joseph's College. Drexel Hall's location across from the entrance to the College and at the entrance to the town give added visibility to what is widely regarded as the most historic structure in the community after the county courthouse.

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Front door.
These photos were taken in February, 2002

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Roof damage at the front door.
The place is in surprisingly good shape considering it's been vacant for almost 25 years.  The building was renovated and used as a dormitory for St. Joseph's College, which is across Highway 231 from this structure.

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STANDPIPE
Fire Department Connection

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From the south

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Second story doorway on south face.

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Piece of terra cotta roof material which has fallen.

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Inside second floor window on south side.

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East side (back of building)

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Hallway view from ground floor on east side of building.

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Room in southeast corner of building.

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The oddest thing we encountered. A small animal skull hanging from a piece of electrical wire. (picture was taken from the same vantage point as the previous two photos)

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Bottom of chimney/smokestack on east side of building.

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Door on east side of building.

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North side of building.

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Electrical connection on second floor, north side.

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Looking across US 231 to St. Joseph's College from the front yard of Drexel Hall.
  For a little more information about the St. Joseph Indian Normal School (Drexel Hall), you can try these links:
(These links are currently not working.  They are going to a 'file not found' page, so I removed the links.)

A Stronger Tie - a letter to the editor of The Catholic Moment from Father Dominic B. Gerlach of St. Joseph's College

This article about Father Stephan (Joseph Andrew Stephan) explains the history of the property a little more, such as, "St. Joseph Indian Normal School, Rensselaer, was among the casualties of the battle Father Stephan valiantly lost against the American Protective Association's influence on the 1888 election of President Benjamin Harrison. Harrison appointed an openly anti-Catholic Commissioner of Indian Affairs who announced the end of "sectarian contract schools," that is, government-subsidized Catholic schools. He in turn appointed the author of Romanism vs. the Public School System to be Commissioner of Indian Education. In 1891, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs broke relations with the Bureau for Catholic Indian Missions. In the same year, Kate Drexel became Mother Katharine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. But Congress had already passed measures to withdraw funding so that by 1896 many contract schools were closed, including St. Joseph Indian Normal School, Rensselaer."

St. Katharine Drexel: 'a mother and servant' - contains references to the school


 

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Historical and Community Content

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