Even before the final votes were tabulated, staff and visitors were in agreement about La Salle Retreat Center in Glencoe: The grounds and historic buildings are beautiful.
The #SpringatLaSalle photo contest merely confirmed that.
Described by director Michael Sawicki as “the best kept secret among Catholics in St. Louis,” the center ran the contest for six weeks after Easter Sunday, as spring blossomed on the 320-acre property on Highway 109, about three-and-a-half miles north of Eureka and Interstate 44.
The contest mandate was simple enough.
“Participants were asked to capture the natural beauty of our grounds and grottos during the springtime,” stated Michelle Cook, La Salle’s marketing and program coordinator.
It was a people’s choice contest, too. The 48 photos that were entered were on display May 15 at La Salle, with attendees voting for the top three and five honorable mentions, including a Brother’s Choice by the Christian Brothers.
Rich Allen placed first with a stunning photo at Calvary Cemetery & Grotto, a sunbeam lighting the crucifix atop the grotto overlooking the cemetery.
The cemetery grotto was dedicated on Oct. 10, 1913. It’s among 10 grottos or meditation areas at La Salle, dating to 1891 and the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. The Lourdes grotto was rededicated in 2011 after a major renovation spearheaded by Brother Marvin Becker.
Once the area headquarters for the Christian Brothers, the property hosted an orphanage administered by the Christian Brothers before they bought it from the archdiocese in 1886. Then, it housed a boys high school until closing in 1965, a house of formation until 1975 and the community’s district headquarters until 1995. The main classroom building dates to 1886, with a student dorm added in 1927 and a wing for the brother’s residences and a gymnasium in 1931. The gym remains in use for CYC sports practices.
The top two floors of the main building were removed in 1969, and the property converted to a retreat center in 1978. It now hosts high school retreats and ACTS retreats, as well as add workshops, conferences and days of prayer. Special events honor Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John de La Salle, and visitors may explore the property and buildings. In addition to the public spaces, a dinner tour in which chef Brandon Coplin dishes up five-star meals includes behind-the-scenes visits to areas once dedicated to the property’s former life as a working farm for boarders and novices.