Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ celebrate 100 years at Ancilla Domini Convent in Donaldson

Thursday, 18 August 2022

(Donaldson, Ind.) – 2022 marks a significant milestone for one of Larson-Danielson’s earliest and, for the time, largest construction projects. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are celebrating 100 years of living and serving at Ancilla Domini Convent and Motherhouse. Today, the building and associated ministries are known as The Center at Donaldson.

The roughly 150,000 square foot convent building took approximately three years to complete and includes a Tudor-Gothic style chapel on the second floor that can seat more than 400. The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ moved into the Motherhouse in August of 1922.

“As the Poor Handmaid congregation grew in the United States, the Sisters needed a place to call home. So, when the opportunity came up to buy a resort with 63 acres of land, the Sisters found a place that would allow them to continue their life and service,” said Sister Shirley Bell, PHJC.

“The plans for the Motherhouse construction called for an E-shaped building with three divisions that included a medical center in between. The building was to be 5 stories high with a tunnel and a tower.” “This was a huge project for Larson-Danielson and remains one of our largest and most iconic projects,” said Brian Larson, President of Larson-Danielson Construction. “We are honored to be joining the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in celebrating Ancilla Domini Convent and its legacy in Donaldson.”

In 1919, Larson-Danielson was awarded the contract for the first phase of construction for the Ancilla Domini Convent. A year later, Larson-Danielson negotiated the contract for the superstructure, and later, for the interior finish. The Ancilla Domini project was a huge undertaking for the construction firm, which, at the time, was just 10 years old.

The resort was home to Lake Galbraith hotel, a dance hall, bowling alley and small chapel. Some of the Sisters occupied the hotel building during construction and Sister M. Bertha Brommel kept a day-to-day account of the construction progress.

“Sister Brummel’s diary containing her observations and impressions provides us with many colorful details and stories. Without her, we wouldn’t have such a strong historical record of the Motherhouse building,” stated Sister Shirley.

Larson-Danielson obtained laborers not only from the immediate vicinity but because of the size of the project from as far away as Chicago. All the mechanics, supplies, masonry and wood needed to be transported. About 30-40 workers were employed at one time and, since the jobsite had to be reached by way of a train going to Plymouth, one of the existing frame structures was repurposed as a bunk house for the workers. A second frame building was used as a kitchen and mess hall and a local couple were employed to do the cooking.

“One story that we still like to tell at Larson-Danielson is about the cook at the job site,” said Larson. “Most of the workers from Larson-Danielson were Swedish and preferred bland food, but the cook was Italian and liked her seasonings, especially garlic. One day when she went out, the workers including founder Emil Danielson, threw out her garlic. Naturally, she got very angry. A compromise was reached so both the cook and the workers could be satisfied with a bit less seasoning.

The Ancilla Domini Convent was designed by Herman J. Gaul of Chicago. In 1989, the convent was recognized by the Marshall County Historical Society as a historical landmark. Next year, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ will recognize the 100-year anniversary of the building’s dedication.

About Larson-Danielson Construction Co., Inc.

Founded in 1908, Larson-Danielson Construction has been one of the most trusted contractors in Northwest Indiana for over a century. A design-build commercial general contractor located in La Porte, Indiana, we provide elite building contractor services including state-of-the-art construction management, pre-construction planning, and skilled labor in all commercial construction trades. Our long history and vast experience have allowed us to build strong lasting relationships with many clients across Northwest Indiana who have learned that they can achieve the greatest value and quality by working with Larson-Danielson as their full-service construction partner. For more information, visit www.ldconstruction.com.

About Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ

Called in Baptism to proclaim by our lives and our works the presence of God in the world, we Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ accept the invitation to live a vowed life in community. We are inspired by Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Saint Katharina Kasper, our foundress, to listen prayerfully, live simply, serve joyfully.

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