De La Roche Hall rose out of the ashes from the fire that took Lynch Hall in 1933. St. Bonaventure decided to erect a new science building on the site of Lynch Hall. The first two floors of Lynch Hall remained although damaged by smoke and water. Using the remains of Lynch Hall as a base, architect. Chester Oakley redesigned the building which became De La Roche, named in memory of Fr. Joseph de La Roche d' Allion, OFM, the first European to discover oil in North America (O'Leary 1).
Fr. Joseph de La Roche d' Allion, OFM was a 17th century Franciscan missionary priest from France. He left the town of Dieppe, France on April 24, 1625 and landed in Quebec on June 19th of that same year (Dictionary). In 1626, Fr. de la Roche went to live with the Attiwandarons, also known as the Neutrals (Dictionary). They were known as the Neutrals because their land sat between Huron and Iroquois lands. Fr. de la Roche settled on the east bank of the Niagara River. The Hurons were afraid that he might set up trade between France and the Neutrals, so the Hurons convinced the Neutrals that Fr. de la Roche was a sorcerer which sent him fleeing for his life back to Huron territory (O'Leary 7).
In the summer of 1627, Fr. de la Roche joined a group of nomad Native Americans moving south along the course of the Genesee River to the territory of present day Cuba Lake (Dedication Booklet). He described a nearby petroleum spring that produced a "very good oil" used by the Native Americans (Dedication Booklet). His account makes him the first white man to come into contact with petroleum in North America. The name de La Roche means "of the rock" and petroleum means "oil of the rock" in Latin. The area of Cuba Lake where Fr. de la Roche made his discovery is not located far from St. Bonaventure, therefore providing the inspiration for the new science building in 1934. A translation of a letter he wrote describing his journey is available here.
To construct De La Roche Hall, the two remaining floors of Lynch were gutted out and a third floor was added. The exterior was built with red brick and a red Spanish tile roof was added. Bas-relief plaques were placed above the entrance on the front of the building. The plaque above the window has a cross at its center that represents Divine wisdom or science of religion. Above the cross is a pen representing the arts and below the cross is a compass representing the sciences ("Campus Architecture"). The plaque over the doorway depicts oil wells.
Bas-relief plaques above the main entrance of De La Roche.
De La Roche circa 1950s.
It was determined in the early 1970s that it was time for De La Roche to receive a facelift. Though the building's most recent incarnation was less than forty years old, it's crumbling exterior was in need of some obvious repairs.
De La Roche before renovations.
In June 1972, a three phase renovation process began. The first stage involved insulating the ceilings, installing new windows, and clearing up the moisture problem in the basement (McElroy). The second stage called for new electrical and mechanical systems and the third stage involved renovating the furnishings and equipment (McElroy). Metal window frames replaced the wooden frames and the wooden doors were replaced by metal doors. An elevator was also installed and an addition was placed on the west side of the building for storage (Hardy). All of the renovations were done by the Siegfried Construction Company of Buffalo. The renovations were completed in 1975 for approximately $1.3 million (Hardy).
De La Roche Hall as it looks today.
An announcement of a $990,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development was made in August 2002. The funding will be used for another renovation of the facility, including window and flooring replacement, masonry, electrical, heating repairs and upgrades and repair of water damage. The grant also provides for professional fees for future upgrades and renovation.
Today, math and science classes are still held in De La Roche. Its interior consists of classrooms and laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics, and other sciences. Department offices are also located in the basement. De La Roche maintains importance as the first of three classroom buildings on campus.
In 2007, the William F. Walsh Science Center was built next to De La Roche, connected by a central hallway. This dramatically added to the possibilities for science education at the Univerisity.
There are more photographs of De la Roche Hall on the Thomas Merton site.
Oakley link added 2/27/06