Cupola finds new home

Founder’s hall cupola replaced Dupont Cross

Cupola being taken off at Founder’s Hall last semester. Photo courtesy of Jerry Swope

Nattilie Sanso | Staff Writers |

The Dupont Cross, which was gifted to St. Michael’s College in 1974, was recently taken down to make room for the Founders Hall cupola on the library lawn. Attributed to Father Gerald E. Dupont, the Dupont Cross has stood as the heart of campus for decades. The cross was made of steel from the old St. Michael’s College Playhouse that burned down in 1970. 

Founder’s Hall was the oldest building on campus and was used as a dormitory, but, according to the President’s office, was in a state of disrepair. “Because of the enormous symbolic value of the cupola, I let the crew know that the cupola must be brought down intact so that we could place it in another area of campus,” said President Lorraine Sterritt in an email. 

According to Facilities Director Joel Ribout, everyone was fully on-board with the suggestion to have the cupola take the Dupont Cross’s place as the focal point of campus. “Father Cray came up with that idea and I was fully on-board, other parties were fully on board,” Ribout said. Father David Cray is superior general of the Edmundites and is a member of the Board of Trustees. “If we kept the cross there and put the cupola beside it, everything would’ve been too distracting, too many things going on, so something had to give,” said Ribout. Father Cray said that the cupola was better suited for that location because the cross is not as prominent of a structure. “Unless someone would walk right up to it and read the plaque on it, they wouldn’t even know what it was there for,” Father Cray said. 

Cupola being taken off Founder’s Hall last Spring 2021. Photo courtesy of Jerry Swope

Father Cray expressed concerns about the cupola being placed in the same area where Founders Hall was located. Originally, the cupola was going to be placed on the ground below where it sat on Founders Hall. Father Cray felt it would have been more isolated, especially at night time when less people are around.

The Founders Hall cupola was taken off in spring 2021 before the building was demolished, a decision made by the Board of Trustees. Ribout managed the deconstruction of the building and said that there was no urgency initially to get the coupla into a new space, however, the budget and weather, along with some other small reasons were the main drives to finish construction. “I think it was kind of cool to have construction going on when we had Alumni Weekend this past weekend,” Ribout said. “People were able to see things going on and that the cupola was coming back.” 

Ribout hopes that alumni will be able to come back when the cupola is operational and see it and take pictures. “The idea is to make it a gathering area for employees, for students to come together and enjoy a part of history,” Ribout said. 

The cupola is currently being restored at the Watershed Construction and Restoration Company’s facility in Berlin,Vt. Ribout came up with the design for the reconstruction with the help of Thea Alvin, a local artist and designer, whom he has consulted with in the past. 

The cross is being kept on campus and will be placed somewhere, but no plan is in place currently. Father Cray has suggested that the cross be placed where the cupola was originally meant to stand. He said that it would be safer there than the cupola would be because it is not the icon of the college in the way that the cupola is. “We wouldn’t want [the cross] to be damaged, but it wouldn’t have the same symbolism connected to St. Michael’s that the cupola has,” Father Cray said. “The cupola is the symbol of St. Michael’s college.” 

The cupola will have seating and is expected to be used as a meeting ground for classes or a lounge area for students. It will also serve as a reminder of the foundation of the college. 

According to Ribout, there has been no negative response from the community and construction is expected to continue until Oct. 18 when the cupola will be brought back and placed on campus. There are no plans for an unveiling ceremony. 

“I just hope it’s a place where people can come, students can come do some studies when it’s nice out, kinda just lounge around, maybe classes are held out there. It’s just an outdoor space that people can enjoy,” Ribout said. “People can just see it, enjoy it, and embrace it.”