To understand how and why
the Brothers physically built the college campus, one must understand
their underlying culture.
Brothers were founded in the country district outside Lyons, France,
in what could only be considered very hilly land where the people
eked out a marginal existence. When Saint Marcellin Champagnat decided
something needed to be done or get built, he relied first on his
available resources not on a fund raising drive. The prime example
of this was the mother house at St. Genis-Laval. Except for several
skilled masons, this was built almost entirely by the brothers.
They carried the rocks, mixed the mortar, and chipped out an enormous
rock ledge (sans dynamite) to provide room for the building which
was tucked between the river Gier and the ledge.
Around 1905, there was a heavy
influx into America of French brothers who had been expelled for
religious reasons. Champagnat's spirit of independence and resourcefulness
carried over to Poughkeepsie after the Brothers purchased the Bech
and McPherson properties, both of which were in ramshackle condition.
Using their own labor, they added extensions to the McPherson building
and to the east and west sides of St. Peter's stone house. They
built two long bungalows in 1912 to be used as temporary dormitories
and a wood shop, placed an additional third floor on the Bech house,
built chicken coops, a silo, and some fruit cellar caves (caveaus).
The results were hardly architectural masterpieces - they were the
product of unskilled labor and amateur architects - but they worked
and stayed within limited budgets.