I was the only employee on the farm and there was less to do in the winter since there were no hogs to feed or eggs to gather. When I finished going over and repairing the equipment used for spring planting and for harvesting, Sister Celine Metzger asked me to help Sister Therese and Sister Paulette with converting the Meat House into an Art House.
My jobs included putting insulation in the first floor ceiling. I did that from the upper level of the whole building. Initially the heat for the building came from a different direction into the building. It came from the old boiler room just across the drive from the Meat House where the swimming pool now stands. When heat could no longer be brought into the building from that direction it had to be piped in a different way and that is when the return pipe under the unused doorway had to be installed. Prior to that time the returns went directly underground and under the driveway to the old boiler room.
The hardest and the largest procedure that I completed in making the transition was when Sister Therese asked me to change the first cooler in the third room from a cooler where meats were hung to a dark room for developing photographs. First I was asked to add a sink in the room. So that meant that I would have to dig through the floor to put in the sink. As I began to dig through the cement which was at least six inches thick, there were several inches of sand and below that there was about a foot of gravel and a layer of tarpaper over the soil. Then I had to dig under the wall of the cooler to pipe the water into the drain in the adjoining room which contained the tables for cutting up the carcasses. This room also contained space for an upright meat and bone saw, a sausage stuffer, a scale and meat grinder. Then I was also asked to install a vent in the outer wall which included the concrete on both the inner wall and the outer wall and the clay tile in the center. The third room also included another cooler where the carcasses were hung when they were first brought in. Later on we had the whole building re-stuccoed; the side door that was never used was completely covered over from the outside. At that time the main entrance door was removed and covered with stucco also.
Outside view of the Art House and Herb Garden today
We always kept apples in the cooler of the second section since it was easy for Sister Mary Arnold to put together the order that she received from the kitchen every Monday morning which would include a bushel or two of apples. When the orchard quit producing we kept potatoes in that cooler since the Cave was taken down shortly after that.
My next job was to build a sort of guard around the motors that were in that room just so no one would bump into them and get hurt. Then I put shelving and stained it in the upper part of the door that was closed off so that Sister could put some of her art work on the shelves. After that I painted most of the interior four rooms. By that time, I was ready to work in the fields.
Shortly after the work was completed, opportunities were offered in the Art House during retreats for those who wished to experience watercolor and clay meditation. Workshops were held in papermaking, pottery and weaving. It became a place to nurture one’s creativity and to deepen one’s spirituality.
Inside view of the Art House today
The next winter, Sister Therese asked me to put some rough cut lumber around the floor as a baseboard and along the top of the walls in the room in the upper level that is now called the Zen Room. The lumber for that portion of the renovation was to come from the farm. So I had to select a tree, cut it down and take it to the sawmill. It had to be cut to the proper specifications. The last thing was to paint a portion of the upper level or the Zen Room.
Today people use the space in a more informal way as they continue on their journey often sitting in the Herb Garden just south of the building.
Sr. Therese Pavilonis stands outside the Art House and Herb Garden
What I would like to add from my personal perspective is the fact that this building was meant to be a Meat House. And it could still function for the purpose for which it was built.
~Frank Romeo, Director of Land Management Emeritus