Novitiate Renovation Ongoing

Godfrey, IL.

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.

Equipment and materials support a small army of construction workers

Roof replacement is going on over the entire structure

In January a craftsman looked out the second floor opening

In March that gap is now covered with a new unfinished wall and windows

The front parlor looked like this before construction started

In March a wall is now gone and it’s in the early stages of being reborn

The rec room before construction

The same rec room space in March

The chapel is still recognizable in March

Everywhere inside new walls, rooms and hallways are taking shape making portions of this familiar building all but unrecognizable

These skilled craftsmen found my grasp of architecture highly amusing. Nevertheless, they were very kind.