Seen from the street, it’s easy to mistake Sitzmann Hall, built in the late 1920s, for the family home it once was. Except for a sign above the front entry, it is virtually indistinguishable from the neighboring stately residences along Summit Avenue. Nonetheless, the building has been part of St. Thomas since the 1940s, first serving as a dormitory for St. Thomas Academy boarders under the name "Summit Hall" before becoming home to the university's fine arts programs and the St. Thomas Conservatory of Music. In 1976, the Fine Arts Building was christened Chiuminatto Hall, in honor of a former chair of the Music Department.
The Center for Catholic Studies marked the beginning of a new era on January 6, 2003 when it moved into its new home at 2055 Summit Ave. At 7,800 square feet (roughly three times the size of the Center’s previous location), the new building allowed all Catholic Studies programs, faculty, and staff to be housed under one roof for the first time. The new location, now called Sitzmann Hall, affirmed the university’s commitment to cultivating its Catholic identity.
Chiuminatto's name change was the result of a major gift by Eugene and Faye Sitzmann, which made possible a $1.25 million renovation that began in the summer of 2002. This overhaul of the building almost completely reconfigured portions of the interior. It also saw the careful restoration the outer walls and distinctive tile roof in accordance with regulations governing the Summit Avenue Historic District, the installation of a basement computer lab, and the construction of a small but heavily trafficked Eucharistic chapel, dedicated in February 2003 with tabernacle, altar, a small sacristy, and seating for fifteen. The construction of the chapel provided the launching pad for what became an ongoing program of perpetual Eucharistic adoration on campus during the school year.
In Summer 2009, the generosity of many donors allowed Sitzmann Hall to undergo another, still more dramatic renovation. With a price tag of $4.2 million, this latest project added some 7,000 square feet to Sitzmann. This expansion created room for an expanded chapel, much-needed new office space, the first classrooms in the building since Sitzmann’s sole classroom was converted to office space in 2004, an outdoor Marian shrine, and even an elevator. All this took place within the strict guidelines set by the Summit Avenue Historic District, so Sitzmann will retain its distinct Georgian Revival character for many years to come. All funding for the project came directly from Catholic Studies benefactors.
As the continuing home of the Center for Catholic Studies, Sitzmann Hall is a strong, concrete expression of the university’s commitment to its Catholic identity. The facility permanently dedicates a piece of St. Thomas to the study of Catholic thought and provides expanded opportunities for the center to better serve the university, the Church and the world.