Before Lee H. Nelson Hall became headquarters for NCPTT, it was said to be home to the spirit of a Civil War-era nun, brooding over her lost love.
According to campus lore, “Isabella” inhabits the oldest building on Northwestern’s campus, which is Nelson Hall. The building, which is the former Women’s Gymnasium, was built in 1923.
After sitting idly for 30 years, a $2.6 million rehabilitation project has turned the building into the home of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
NSU is planning a “Welcoming Ceremony” for Isabella, Oct. 31. The ceremony will begin at the university’s trademark columns and conclude at Nelson Hall after the NSU Theatre production of “The Tragedy of Frankenstein.”
According to legend, Isabella lived before the Civil War. At one time she was in love with a young man who was killed in a duel of honor. She became a nun and lived in Bullard Mansion which was on the current site of Northwestern.
Isabella was a recluse who only came out at night to talk to her lover. Following a violent storm, she stabbed herself through the heart with a knife, leaving a bloody handprint on the wall.
Tradition says that she leaves a bloody handprint on the wall or door of every building in which she resides.
Isabella traditionally resides in the oldest building on campus. In 1904, she was moved to East Hall from Bullard Mansion when it was torn down.
Isabella was moved in 1926 from the site of the demolished East Hall to the music education building. When that building was torn down in 1948, Isabella was escorted to Caldwell Hall.
After Caldwell Hall was destroyed in a fire, Isabella was moved to the Women’s Gym on Halloween Night in 1982 in a ceremony that captured national attention. But the renovation of Nelson Hall and two fires in the building during construction may have displaced her.
“All of the work and the fires may have driven her away,” said Executive Assistant to the President Robert Crew. “We want to make sure she is welcome in her new home.”