Behind the Name
Lyons Hall is dedicated to the memory of Professor Joseph A. Lyons, one of Notre Dame’s most distinguished early faculty members. Lyons first came to Notre Dame as a fifteen-year-old orphan in 1848, entering the shoemaker’s shop as an apprentice. By 1851, he had impressed even Father Sorin with his determination and attitude. As a reward, the President offered him one free year of tuition at the University, and Lyons entered the Scholasticate to study for the ministry. After several years, he decided to pursue a career in teaching instead of the priesthood. Lyons graduated from Notre Dame in 1862, receiving highest honors.
Joining the English faculty after graduation, Lyons became one of Notre Dame’s most popular professors, lived with students in a campus dormitory, and continued to contribute to the literary and spiritual life of students. He was known for welcoming all students for informal discussions in his small room in the old administration building. For more than a quarter century, Lyons actively participated in building of Notre Dame as an academic institution. In an era which lacked qualified lay teachers, he became the heart and soul of the Notre Dame faculty. Lyons was a man respected not only for his teaching ability, but also for his genuine concern for students. Professor Lyons died after a long illness on August 22, 1888, and was remembered at his funeral as a bright example of energy and perseverance who dedicated his life in service to the students of Notre Dame.
Home Sweet Home: About the Building Itself
The post-World War I college boom led to an influx of students and a housing shortage at Notre Dame. Father Matthew Walsh, then the University’s President, commissioned a major physical expansion which included the building of Howard, Morrissey, and Lyons residence halls. These three were designed as a group in 1925 by Francis Kervick and Vincent Fagan, members of the Architecture faculty. Lyons, in particular, was designed in order to better integrate the lakes into the campus landscape. The Lyons arch, by far the building’s most distinctive feature, frames St. Mary’s Lake, providing a delightful vista as well as a picturesque entrance to the hall. The arch, designed by Kervick, was so sited that from several vantage points on the western half of the South Quadrangle a walker, while surrounded by buildings, could have a view of the lake. The construction of Lyons Hall was completed in the spring of 1927.
A Not-So Distant Past…
During many of its years as a men’s dorm, Lyons was an honors hall, with a reputation for its studious atmosphere. In 1974, it was renovated and became one of the first six women’s residence halls at Notre Dame. Over the last four decades, Lyons has built a tradition of spirit and community second to none at Notre Dame. In 2007, Lyons celebrated the 80th anniversary of the hall’s construction. During the summer of 2013, Building Services at Notre Dame completed a $6.2 million renovation of the hall, remodeling the bathrooms, common areas, kitchens, landscaping, windows, roof, and chapel. Lyons is the only dorm on campus with old-school tradition and a swanky interior– it’s as classy as the women that reside there!