Procopius Hall was the first dedicated science building at SPC. The three story brick building stood on campus for over 40 years and was an important milestone in the development of the college of science.
In a May 1939 Procopian News article titled "War Scare at Procopius? No, Sir! Not by a Trenchful", Bertha Gunsmith writes...
"The quiet peace of the classroom was shattered one bright, sunny morning last week by a roaring noise from the northwest side of the institution. An armed patrol of the school's heftiest bruisers was dispatched to investigate the disturbance...Our dear captain gave us the signal to charge, and yelling like Bedouins we moved toward the trench diggers, waving our cutlasses above our heads. We charged in among them, but stopped short when we saw familiar faces, glaring at us in anger. 'What do you boys think you're doing? Get back to classes!' 'But, Father-!' 'Get back to classes!' 'Yes, but what's this trench for?' 'Trench? Trench? This is no trench, you idiot! We're digging a tunnel for the future Science Hall!"
As the initial events of the Second World War were taking place in Europe, the administration at SPC was looking to expand its science program. The biology department situated in Ben Hall had enough room to operate between the combined classrooms of the Jurica brothers, however, the chemistry, physics and mathematics classrooms were suffering from a lack of space. There was little room for both students and the vast array of equipment in the college's possession. In response, the college began construction of a new academic building dedicated to the sciences. Construction of the building began in the summer of 1939 and the corner-stone was laid by Abbot Procopius Neuzil O.S.B. on September 28th of that same year.
The plans for the building were created by a Chicago Loop architect, but all the of the construction was done by what the college newspaper called "home talent". The college called upon the abbey monks who had experience in carpentry, masonry, and structural steel work. Initial estimates for the completion of the building were optimistic. It was expected to be completed in September of 1940.
However, by 1941, the local and abbey artisans had only just installed the fireproof asbestos roof. By January of 1942, the "home-talent" was still attemping to finish the plumbing and electrical work in addition to laying the maroon colored asphalt tiles. Procopius Hall was finally ready for use in 1942 when classes started on September 3rd, only two years behind schedule.
The construction of Procopius Hall was an ambitious project. In order to supply power to the new building, a 300 foot long concrete tunnel was dug to connect Procopius Hall to the power house (Coal Ben) in order to supply water, steam, and electricity. The extensiveness of the construction was likely the reason the project took so long to complete.
With the completed construction of the building, the chemistry, physics, and mathematics departments were able to blossom with ample room for instruction, laboratory work, and study.
By mid-twentieth century standards, Procopius Hall was equipped with some of the most modern equipment available. The college moved a great deal of the old equipment from Ben Hall in addition to purchasing some newer assets.
Procopius Hall contained a chemistry lab, a physics lab, a machine shop, and an extensive library built from the 31,000 volumes in Ben Hall's library.
Procopius Hall was an enormous step toward expanding the college of science at St. Procopius College. It allowed for the expansion of all the departments within the college of science and gave further credibility to the high academic aspirations of SPC.
The science hall served the college for over 40 years. In addition to helping expand the science program, the construction of Procopius assisted in expanding the campus as a whole. It was the first academic building to be constructed on campus since Benedictine Hall.
In 1969, the college completed the construction of the Scholl Science Learning Center. The facility was much larger and more accommodating than Procopius Hall was.
On April 23 1986, Thomas Dyba, Executive Vice President, revealed the plans for the Krasa Student Center. However, in order for the plan to be implemented, Procopius had to be torn down. Many students, faculty, and alumni did not want the structure to be destroyed for both historical and sentimental reasons.
Despite the clamor from the college community, the administration claimed that repairing the building would cost too much and that the building would be rendered obsolete by both Krasa and Scholl Hall.
The spring semester of 1986 would be Procopius' last semester on campus. When students returned in the fall, construction had already begun on the Krasa Student Center.