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Cover Story

Tucked-away treasures: Inside Marquette's hidden places

By Nicole Sweeney Etter    Illustrations by Marla Campbell

You think you know every inch of Marquette’s 94 acres? So did we. But for all the thousands of students, faculty members and visitors who traipse across our campus annually, there remain a few places just waiting to be explored. Let us introduce you to some of the university’s most intriguing, rarely seen spots.

Sacristy of St. Joan of Arc Chapel

The back room of the St. Joan of Arc Chapel is off-limits to everyone but authorized personnel. But chapel guide Irene Wesolowski let us take a peek. The sacristy is home to one of the chapel’s most special relics, three antique vestments from the 17th and 18th centuries. Made of exquisite, hand-embroidered silk, velvet and brocade, the garments are tucked away in drawers. One violet garment shows signs of wear probably from years of priests leaning against a stone altar, Wesolowski says. The cabinet that holds the vestments is itself a work of art made of ornate, carved solid walnut. The cabinets and other carved wooden panels in the room were a gift from the estate of Harry Grant, former owner and publisher of the Milwaukee Journal. Grant’s ancestors brought the wood from England in 1804, but it is believed to date back before 1750. The sacristy’s original window and old chandelier did not survive the test of time, but a new window was created in 1930 by Charles Connick, at that time considered the world’s leading stained-glass artist. The chandelier was created to replicate the design of the original chandelier. If you visit the sacristy, don’t forget to ask why the armadillo door knocker is on the inside.

Go inside.

Grid above the Evan P. and Marion Helfaer Theatre

To the audience, it appears as if scenery is whisked into the ether. But real work is happening some 50 feet above the stage. It’s called “the grid,” and it’s an elaborate rigging system of 33 fly lines, pulleys and heavy weights used to counterbalance the scenery below. The rigging system was designed by Jay Glerum, a former Marquette professor now known as the guru of stage rigging. “It’s physics in action,” says Stephen Hudson-Mairet, chair of the Department of Performing Arts. “Except we don’t call it physics it scares the artists.” Getting to the grid might be even scarier. To reach the loading rail, a catwalk just below the grid, requires scrambling up several flights of narrow winding stairs, some just a few inches wide. Peer over the rail and you have a bird’s-eye view of the stage. Stage hands aren’t the only ones who need to get up this high. A few years ago, the university constructed an open mesh walkway across the grid for maintenance workers to access the roof.

Go inside.

Jes Res Garden

Behind Marquette’s Jesuit Residence is a true urban oasis. Sheltered from busy Wisconsin Avenue by a thick wall of evergreens, the Stuessi Garden is only visible from the back of the Jes Res and some offices in the Alumni Memorial Union. After Wisconsin’s winter fades, the garden comes to life with bright daffodils, iris, creeping phlox and flowering trees. Water cascades into a tranquil pond that’s home to the occasional duck, and stray cats and scores of birds join the Jesuits who wander the garden’s meandering path. Rev. James Flaherty, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community, says the garden once had a church-shaped birdhouse, a joke that especially tickled the Jesuits when cardinals came to roost. Though the church-birdhouse is gone, the Jesuits make sure to keep other birdfeeders filled for any feathered visitors. Mary Joan Stuessi, Nurs ’53 and Grad ’64, donated the garden in 1990 in honor of her parents, John and Esther Stuessi. Marquette’s groundskeeping crew maintains the sanctuary. The garden’s gates are occasionally left open so guests can peek inside during special events, including new-employee convocation.

Go inside.

Basement of the Haggerty

A visit to the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art is like witnessing the tip of the iceberg: In fact, less than 1 percent of the permanent collection is on display because of a shortage of exhibition space. The bulk of the museum’s 4,500 pieces resides in the basement, including everything from Henri Matisse prints to an Andy Warhol canvas. Even the museum’s best-known piece, Salvador Dali’s “Madonna of Port Lligat,” was recently taken off display and placed into storage. “Our job is to constantly rotate,” says Wally Mason, museum director. “You make sacrifices, but you have to be thinking long term.” Paintings hang on sliding rows of chainlink fence in one room, and smaller pieces are carefully preserved in flat file drawers. “Each one of these flat files is just a treasure trove of objects,” Mason says. The basement is also where the Haggerty staff prepares artwork for display, storage and shipping. The basement collection is rarely seen by anyone other than museum staff and the occasional behind-the-scenes tour, but that may change once the museum completes a basement observation room for visiting groups.

Go inside.

The Carillon Bell Tower  

Mark Konewko taps his fists and feet on the wooden batons and foot pedals of the carillon, causing the bells to reverberate above and below this little nook atop Marquette Hall. At first it’s soothing Easter music, then the more stirring “Ring Out Ahoya.” Though the carillon’s music is familiar to everyone on campus, few have made the climb up the narrow, winding stairs to see the instrument perched there high above Wisconsin Avenue. “It’s quite a different experience being in here than it is hearing it below,” Konewko says. “It’s kind of a special place to be.” The playing chamber is enclosed by rough, multicolored bricks and tall windows. No matter the weather, Konewko keeps his Wednesday afternoon date with the carillon and leaves the door open in case any curious listeners decide to wander up. “Students have always been interested in the carillon, and once they come up, they usually come back,” he says. The bell tower has been part of Marquette Hall since it opened in 1924, but the bells didn’t arrive until 1964. The 48-bell carillon is one of just three in Wisconsin. The bells were cast in France and, Konewko says, have a warmer, more sonorous sound than bells cast in England.

Go inside.


Comment by Frank C. Manista at Aug 06 2008 09:47 am
I would suggest the choir loft at Gesu as well to your wonderful list.
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