Published: May 2005
In November 2004, Boston College acquired St. Stephen’s Priory in Dover, Massachusetts, 12 miles southwest of the main campus, to create a retreat center for the University community. The $16.5 million, 78.5-acre property alongside the Charles River includes a 51,000-square-foot main building, two smaller structures, several garages, a pool, and tennis, basketball, and handball courts.
The land parcel was developed in 1902 by Arthur Davis and his wife, Mary, who was the daughter of Benjamin P. Cheney, a successful businessman in the post-Civil War era who served as chairman of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Their home—”which came to be known as Gracestone Farm—”featured landscaping by Olmstead & Vaux, with formal gardens and fieldstone paths. The Davises sold the property in 1945, and it passed into the hands of the Dominican Order in 1949.
In August 1950, the Dominicans welcomed a class of 41 novices to St. Stephen’s Priory. Both the novices and priests resided in the Davis residence until 1952, when a 70-room addition was added to the structure. In 1984 the novitiate was relocated to Cincinnati, and the priory focused its mission on a retreat ministry and sabbatical programs for religious women.
In the spring of 2005, the Boston College Retreat Center opened its doors to students, faculty, staff, and alumni interested in holding meetings on the Dover property. The center has 100 bedrooms, conference rooms, a dining hall, a library, a formal living room and dining room, a large parlor, and a chapel. Guests may also roam the grounds and walk a pathway to the Charles River.