Text and photos by Will Shaw
In January of this year, I visited the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oblate Novitiate in Godfrey, IL to begin photo documentation of the renovation and restoration of the nearly 100-year-old building which sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The elegant structure was originally built as a summer getaway for the wealthy Levis family.
In 2019 it was decided that the venerable structure was in need of a major renovation in order for it to once again become the world-class facility required for future generations of Oblate novices and formators from around the world. After some delay, work began in 2020 with the goal of completing the project in late summer 2021.
Though much work has been done since my first visit, I found the interior to be even less recognizable in March than in January. Entire walls and rooms have disappeared, replaced with metal studs outlining new spaces. I tried without success to identify the old dining room which apparently is now broken up into new and different unfinished rooms. When asked, a craftsman kindly showed me blueprints of what was and what is to be, but given my complete lack of understanding of such things, he could have been showing me pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you will, just take my word that the carpenters, roofers, electricians, et al are working diligently and things are definitely changing. When I return for another update in 8 to 10 weeks I hope to be able to identify actual rooms and report to you what they are, or will be. (I’ll do some research by watching old episodes of “This Old House” and “Fixer Upper.”)
Below are some new photos taken on March 16, along with contrasting photos of the spaces from January and prior to construction.