St Augustine’s College, Monastery & Church- Nassau
In March 1946, at 70 years of age, Hawes commenced working on what was to be his largest architectural undertaking in the Bahamas, St Augustine’s College, Monastery and Church at Fox Hill, New Providence.
Originally Hawes designed a typical monastery built around an internal quadrangle however he soon realised that the contingencies of the site required a different approach which he describes as “serpentine”, that is a “. . . winding in and out, up and down, of monastery, church, and college, stretching out to six hundred feet.” (Liturgical Arts, Nov 1950, Vol. 19, No. 1 pp. 18-20, New York quoted in Taylor 2000, p.336).
Construction of St Augustine’s College and the monastery commenced on April 12, 1946, with the foundation stone laid by the Auxiliary Bishop of New York, the Most Rev Stephen Donahue on July 11, 1946. The first stages of the college and monastery were completed in eleven months and consisted of two 160 foot long blocks. Hawes speaks of the buildings consisting of a “long stretch of arcaded corridors and cloisters – upper and lower – like Nazareth House – Geraldton” (Hawes letter to O’Collins, 4 April 1946 cited in Taylor 2000, p. 330). The College and Monastery were blessed by the Lord Abbot the Right Rev Alcuin Deutsch on March 11, 1947.
Hawes was very happy and satisfied to note that the decorative features of St Augustine’s Monastery were “monastic handmade handicraft” - though not his handicraft. The six medallions carved over the air vents in the chapter room were by Fr Alban OSB.
During the construction of the College and Monastery, Hawes lived at a place called The Hermitage located about 8kms away by the sea and formerly a place of retreat for Cardinal O’Connor. Hawes speaks of being able to fit the whole floor area of his hermitage on Cat Island within one of its large bedrooms.
Hawes sketched the design for several other associated buildings including a Sister’s Convent, a college assembly hall, a guest house and a technical school, as well as a laundry and garages.
A feature of the monastery, as on his Mullewa church, are two large gargoyles designed by Hawes, one of which is still in situ – the other partly.
In March 1947, Hawes laid the foundations of the two west towers of the future monastery church that was never completed.
In 1949 -50 Hawes continued work on the foundations and crypt of the monastery church, building and decorating ten altars and their retablos in typical Hawes style.