Old St. Mary's Had a Farm

St. Mary's Farm and Dairy

Did you know that St. Mary's was originally a farm?

St. Mary’s College, located downtown, was looking to purchase a 75-acre property for the extension of their campus . It was purchased for a $1 from the West End Town Co. On August 23, 1893, plowing and excavation began as they broke ground. St. Mary’s College referred to the new campus as “Woodlawn.” It opened in 1884 and was named St. Louis College. This property was farmland when bought and was a sea of mesquite brushes, rattle snakes, and an existing cow barn with stables on the property.

The original barn, stables, and pens were referred to as “the old barn.” This area included a hennery, dairy, stables, orchards, and vegetable gardens. The Marianists at the downtown campus were known to have harvested their own food through farming and agriculture in the 1850-1860s. The Marianists produced and managed their own resources using the land around the original campus property. When they moved to the Woodlawn campus, the Marianists continued their harvesting work on site, and they assigned brothers to the farm and dairy department.

Brother Joseph F. Miller S.M. was heading the dairy and farm department at St. Louis College, by this time renamed, St. Mary’s College. He spent a twenty-year tenure at St. Mary’s making many contributions to the College. In 1916, Brother Joseph Miller supervised and financed the erection of a new barn building and other structural improvements. He was also the cow barn architect; he designed and oversaw the creation of the new structures. The new farm structures included a cow barn (using concrete for the interior structure), a storm shed on the northside of the barn, hay barn, cow stables, a chicken yard, a calf pen, cow pen, pig yard, and a hog house. The farm animals on the property included chickens, turkey, horses, mules, a 1700 pound bull, calves, cows (including one cow named Nora), hens, and pigs. Nightly, coyotes prowled through the stables, stealing chickens.

Furthermore, Brother Joseph Miller S.M. would later be appointed to the office of provincial treasurer with the headquarters at Maryhurst Normal, Kirkwood Missouri. In April of 1929, Bro. Joseph Miller would return to the newly named St. Mary’s University for a visit. He was noted as giving high interest in the new improvements on campus such as the gymnasium, the track, and improvements to the dairy and farming section. By the 1940s through the 1950s, the animals and farm would be long gone. The barn would then be used as an armory, housing ROTC equipment, including M-1’s, 105’s, uniforms, and other equipment. The area outside the barn, which used to be stables and pens, became a rifle range. The farming land that surrounded the old barn became drill fields for the ROTC department. The old chicken yard became a pecan grove used for parties, picnics, and other festivities hosted by campus organizations. The pecan grove still hosts many festivities today, such as the oyster bake. The farm provided many necessary resources for the Marianists and their pupils at the turn of the century and should be remembered as a significant part of St. Mary’s history.



St. Mary's Farm and Dairy Audio Tourwav / 25.90 MB Download


The original barn was located west of the original natatorium and north of the pecan grove where Treadaway Hall is now located.