FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The historic Saint Scholastica Former Monastery Building in Fort Smith will soon be demolished, a press release announced.

The Former Monastery Building was completed in 1924 after the “Benedictine Sisters” relocated from their original Arkansas home in New Blaine to what was then the outskirts of Fort Smith.

The release says at the time, the building was a school for day and boarding students for first through twelfth grades, in addition to being their monastic home when sisters came back to Fort Smith from their missions throughout Arkansas and adjoining states.

In 1958, Saint Scholastica built a new Saint Scholastica Academy north of the monastery building the number of sisters increased throughout the decades, peaking at about 300 in the 1970s when their numbers began to decline. Today, less than 30 sisters use Saint Scholastica.

The decision to demolish the Former Monastery Building is not one that the Benedictine Sisters made lightly or without years of research and discernment, the release says.

Since 2010, Saint Scholastica has reportedly engaged in communications with consultants, realtors, and friends of the community about feasible uses for the nearly 100-year-old building. According to the release, using the Former Monastery Building would require a significant investment to bring it up to code and adjust the layout for practical uses, which led to the decision for demolition.

A quote obtained several years ago estimated renovation to be upwards of $15 million including all electrical and plumbing updates. After years of looking, no feasible uses for the Former Monastery Building panned out.

In February of 2019, the Benedictine Sisters moved out of the Former Monastery Building into a smaller, more energy-efficient building located south of their previous home. Flooding, mold, and wall damage have reportedly made the building unsafe and unlivable. Due to these hazards, the Former Monastery Building represents a significant safety and financial liability.

According to the Monastery, a committee is currently being formed to begin plans regarding a use of the area that “reflects the sisters’ desire to be good stewards of their land and their commitment to serve the greater Fort Smith community.”