Lourdes Hall

The Building that Fell onto Campus

Finally, we reach Lourdes Hall. When the Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel was constructed in 1968, rooms that were left over from the project were used to build Lourdes Hall as a dormitory.

When looking at all the buildings at St. Mary’s University, perhaps Lourdes Hall stands out to you the most differently in terms of architecture. That is because it shares the same rooms as the Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel downtown. The beginning of Lourdes Hall begins with the building of the Hilton hotel. Because San Antonio was the site of the Hemisfair World’s Fair in 1968, the city needed a grand hotel downtown for the millions of visitors arriving. In order to build the hotel in time for the HemisFair, Zachry Construction Company relied on modular building. This was a method of construction that had involved quickly assembling rooms individually off-site and later placing them down at its designation. Zachry Company constructed each room separately seven miles off-site. The carpeting, drapes, light bulbs, and furniture were placed in the rooms off-site as well. The workers carried the rooms over to the site downtown and stacked them together. To accomplish such engineering, workers used an IBM computer the size of a room. Thanks to modular building and modern technology, the entire process only took 202 days. While this was not the first instance of modular building, the construction of the Hilton Hotel popularized this method by making it into national headlines.

Lourdes Hall was constructed around the same time as the HemisFair exposition in 1968. Unlike the previous buildings on campus, Lourdes Hall is a modular building. In fact, Zachry Construction Company used leftover rooms from the Hilton Hotel to build Lourdes Hall. Just like the Hilton Hotel, they assembled everything for Lourdes Hall outside of campus. The construction crew attached all of the components such as the electrical wires and plumbing equipment into the rooms and transported everything to campus. Once there, the company used a crane to anchor the rooms together. It was essentially stacking cubes on top of each other. Workers then built a utility room in between every two rooms to attach the wires and plumbing from the rooms together. All of this was supposed to be a faster and more effective way to construct buildings. After its completion, Lourdes Hall initially became a girls’ dormitory, although it later became a dormitory for both boys and girls.

The construction of the Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel and Lourdes Hall helped to popularize modular building. Although not as fancy or detailed as traditional construction, modular building is a faster and cheaper method. This makes Lourdes Hall the only building to have ever literally dropped into campus.



Lourdes Hall Audio Tour
An audio history on Lourdes Hall ~ Creator: Mario Sosa ~ Date: December 16, 2019
View File Record


Located in front of Founder's Hall.