Six frequently asked historical questions about RMCAD’s campus

As a student at RMCAD, it’s fun to have a few trivia answers in your back pocket about the campus. We’re answering some of your frequently asked questions with the help from Terry Griffis, our helpful campus resource specialist. If you aren’t familiar with RMCAD’s campus history as a dairy farm and a Jewish Consumptive Relief Society tuberculosis (TB) hospital, read A Blast to the Past: RMCAD’s Campus History.

1. What is the story behind the names of the buildings on campus?
Many of the buildings on campus were named after Jewish philanthropists – including the Texas Building, Rude and Mary Harris. The Texas Building was named after ladies from the state of Texas who raised funds for the structure. Rude was named after Isadore Rude, a local philanthropist, and Mary Harris in honor of one of the hospital’s dedicated health care advocates. RMCAD’s Robinson building was inspired by the campus’ original roots – the Robinson Dairy Farm. And lastly, Spivak Studios was named in honor of Charles Spivak, the head doctor of the tuberculosis hospital. When the hospital was active, the campus as a whole was referred to as Spivak City.

2. What were the buildings’ purposes when the campus was a tuberculosis hospital?
Back in the days when the campus was a working TB hospital, RMCAD’s main Texas Building was used primarily as a women’s dormitory and hospital. If you visit some of the rooms on the third floor today, you can still see the hospital room layouts. Each building served its own purpose to care for the patients, including Rude, the hospital’s medical center; Mary Harris, the hospital’s auditorium and entertainment center; and Triboro, the dining hall. Rotunda was used as a sun treatment facility for patients as nurses would open the building’s large windows and roll patients out on the giant porch to let in sunlight and fresh air for ventilation (a treatment for TB at the time). There are a few buildings on campus that were not a part of the hospital, including Diamond and EPIC, which were later built and used for medical research facilities following the cure for TB.

3. What are the campus tunnels?
If you’ve been on a campus tour, you’ve likely heard about RMCAD’s campus tunnels, which do exist. These tunnels have been around since the campus’ beginnings as a TB hospital and connect several of the buildings underground. They were used as steam tunnels to treat buildings with steam heat, but also to transport patients between buildings during inclement weather. Once a year, typically around the halloween season, RMCAD hosts tunnel tours for students, faculty and staff to get a closer look and hear even more stories (sometimes spooky) about the history of the tunnels and campus.

4. What is the story behind the Violinist and the Nurse mural in the Texas Building?
RMCAD is known for its hidden art gems around campus, but one that gets asked a lot of questions is the mural located just inside the double back doors of Texas. This piece of art was inspired by a story during the campus’ early beginnings. The story goes that a violinist who frequently played at the hospital fell in love with one of the nurses. He got turned down several times from the nurse and eventually shot her in front of the Rotunda building. To this day, students, faculty and staff refer to the nurse as the Lady in White as she has been spotted around campus to this day.

5. Is the original synagogue from the hospital still on campus?
The campus still has a synagogue, although not in use. The building is actually the hospital’s second synagogue as the original building burned down.

6. What is the story behind the campus water tower?
The water tower was a gift to the hospital from the city of St. Louis. Since the campus was a sanatorium, or an establishment for the medical treatment of people with a chronic illness, it required a fresh water supply which the city was happy to donate.

If you love learning about RMCAD’s campus history, continue to follow along on the RMCAD blog.