Like many other American universities in the late 1940s, Notre Dame saw an influx of a new type of student: a World War II veteran on a G.I. Bill with a wife and possibly children. Since Notre Dame did not have married student housing at the time and alternate housing in South Bend was scarce, “Vetville” was created to fill this need. Vetville opened in the Fall of 1946, housed 117 families, and occupied areas of Mod Quad along Bulla and Juniper Roads. Each building consisted of three two-bedroom apartments with a kitchen and bathroom and was constructed of “thirty-nine prisoner-of-war barracks [from] a military camps in Weingarten, Missouri” [Schlereth, page 191].
Vetville was its own village, with six wards, council representatives, and a mayor “who was charged to negotiate with the University administration for better garbage collection, paved streets, food cooperatives, and playgrounds.” In addition to carrying a full academic course-load, most of the students and many of their wives held down full-time jobs, trying to make ends meet, while also raising a family in tight living quarters [Schlereth, pages 191-192].
The lives of the married students and their families are well documented through the weekly newspaper, which debuted on April 30, 1947, and ran in one form or another through 1962. It announced events, accomplishments, guidance, and other information for the Vetville families.
Notre Dame did not intend the barracks of Vetville to be permanent housing. As the enrollment of veterans with families waned in the late 1950s, plans for new, modern residence halls, library, and chapel were laid out in the early 1960s. The Vetville buildings and Navy Drill hall were demolished by 1962 to make room for the new construction. However, Notre Dame also recognized the need for married students housing and the Cripe Street Apartments for married students was completed in 1962 as Vetville vanished.
On June 11, 1966, former Vetville Chaplain Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, dedicated a plaque on the hill just north of the Memorial Library (now called Hesburgh Library) to the families who spent their years at Notre Dame in Vetville. It reads, “This area was the site of ‘Vetville,’ married student housing 1945-1962. Many were the trials — Thanks to the Holy Family for the many blessings needed to persevere.”
Pilkinton has been a regular here in the Notre Dame Archives for many years as he laboriously researched Washington Hall (built in 1881) and other exhibition halls and theatrical venues that preceded it. His new book is a comprehensive history of the building architecturally, as well it’s role at the heart of Main Quad as the hub of many theatrical and musical performances, lectures, movie screenings, and other events.
Pilkinton was also instrumental in the development of the Theatre Chronology database, hosted on the Archives’ website, which attempts to detail every student theatrical performance ever held at Notre Dame. Pilkinton is continuously updating the database as new performances are staged and as new information on old performances is unearthed.
Near where Cavanaugh Hall is today, there once was a building which had the tongue-in-cheek name “Rockefeller Hall.” This building housed the University privies and possibly stables at some point, and the upper level housed transient men who came to Notre Dame in winter in search of food and lodging in exchange for odd jobs around campus.
In 1913, the University decided to forgo providing such accommodations: “That the University of Notre Dame is to do away with its famous home of tramps and hoboes, was learned last week when the faculty decided to abandon Rockefeller Hall, which for a quarter century has been the annual winter mecca for hundreds of the ‘sons of rest’ from all parts of the United States. This bit of news has caused much regret among the students, who had learned to look forward to the annual pilgrimage of the hoboes” [Catholic Columbian Record, 10/03/1913; PNDP 10-Ro-01].
The students, at least according to one contributor to Scholastic, envied their fellow “inmates” at Notre Dame because of the freedom these men had to come and go as they pleased. Rockefeller Hall was “the only hall at the University where general permission is exhibited” [Scholastic, 10/01/1913, page 96].
Rockefeller Hall was demolished in June 1931 and Cavanaugh Hall was ready for student residents for the fall of 1936.
The initial success of the University of Notre Dame as an internationally renowned institution is due to the passion and dedication of her founder, the Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC. Located in the rural wilderness of Indiana, Notre Dame had many obstacles to over come and Sorin had many ingenious ideas for strengthening the fledgling school. In 1850, only eight years after the founding, Fr. Sorin asked the federal government to establish a post office at Notre Dame. Sorin’s request was granted in January 1851.
Besides bringing communications directly to campus, a government post office on campus literally put Notre Dame on the map. Sorin noted, “The profit [of a post office established at Notre Dame] is merely a sparing of money and of inconvenience [as opposed to using the South Bend post office], but there is another very valuable circumstance connected herewith: the passing of the stage coach regularly under the windows of the college. The house is daily becoming better known and the roads leading to it will have to be better cared for” [Chronicles of Notre Dame du Lac, page 100]. While Fr. Sorin was the Postmaster, the Holy Cross Brothers were the ones in charge of the distribution of mail at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College.
The fourth post office was dedicated in 1967 and was located south of the Law School Building near Main Circle. It remained in use until the construction of Hammes Mowbray Hall in 2004. This post office was razed and the space is now occupied by the addition to the Law School.
Hammes Mowbray Hall, which houses the current post office and security department, was built on the north side of campus near Stepan Center and the Power Plant in 2004. For the first time in nearly 150 years, a post office was not located near the main southern entrance of campus.
In the 1940s, during the midst of World War II, Notre Dame embarked on an ambitious campus beautification project, which would fill twenty empty niches on buildings around campus, including many that had stood vacant for decades. In 1943, classes in the Art Department were cancelled due to lack of fine art students. While such classes remained for the Architecture students, the faculty and artists in residence with the Art Department had some time on their hands to concentrate on the campus statue project.
The first building to see such an installation was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. In May 1944, St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel finally found their home at the east World War I Memorial Door. The Memorial door itself was originally added to the Basilica in 1924, left with empty niches for twenty years.
Few may have been “aware of the sculpture creations going on in the Old Natatorium Building behind the Dome.” Fortunately, Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC, sculptor of many of those statues, wrote a letter in 1980 to then-Notre Dame Magazine editor Ron Parent describing his involvement in this campus sculpture project. Below are excerpts from Bednar’s letter (at times Bednar refers to himself in the third-person):
“[I]t might be of interest to some that all the statues were done in artificial stone, a cement mix consisting of Portland cement, white cement, silica, marble dust, and for slight coloring, Burnt Siena powder, a warm brown color. The figures had to be made in clay from which a mold was formed for pouring the cement mix. Father O’Donnell would not consent to have the figures carved out of limestone – too slow and expensive a process. As it was, the niches on campus buildings had been neglected for too many years. The World War I Memorial had the names of Joan of Arc and St. Michael carved in Gothic script below the niches in 1924, empty niches, and now we were in the middle of World War II when John Bednar filled those two niches with their namesakes!
“The opportunity to fill all the empty niches on campus facades came when Father Szabo of South Bend brought Eugene Kormendi to meet with John Bednar, the sculptor in the Art Department and to see if Kormendi could obtain any sculpture commissions from the University, a likely outlet for a sculptor. I suggested that we could fill all the empty niches on the campus which I had been eying for years. I had been studying sculpture under the tutelage of Chicago’s foremost sculptor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, (received my M.F.A. in sculpture in 1940 and had introduced sculpture into the program of the Art Department at Notre Dame the same year.) The Szabo-Kormendi visit was perfectly timed for a sculpture project on the campus.
“A reliable witness to the production of the campus sculptures was Tony Lauck, a Moreau seminarian at the time and a sculptor of merit, who also wished to work in the Bednar-Kormendi studio on his own project, a huge block of wood for a standing figure of Christ. Permission granted and Tony brought two other seminarians to help him with a double-handled cross-cut saw for the preliminary shaping of the Christ figure. A bronze casting was made of that wood carving which can be seen today on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church, South Bend.
“The St. Jerome statue on another Dillon wall, showing the great Biblical Scholar beating his chest with a rock instead of a scourge, Bednar shipped to Indianapolis before installation in the niche. I won a prize in sculpture at the John Herron Art Museum in a juried exhibition The $150 prize paid for the round trip and for the clay, the cements, marble dust etc., and brought back the approval of the jury.”
Among the Sculpture on Campus Installed in the 1940s:
Works by Eugene Kormendi:
Law School Building – “St. Thomas More”; “Christ the King” [due to deterioration, these two statues were disposed of during the 2010 construction of the Law School addition]
Alumni Hall – “The Graduate”
Dillon Hall – “Commodore Barry”
Lyons Hall Arch – “St. Joseph with Lilly”
Morrissey Hall – “St. Andrew”
Rockne Memorial Entrance – “St. Christopher”
St. Liam Hall Infirmary – “The Good Shepherd”; “St. Raphael the Archangel”
Works by Rev. John J. Bednar, CSC
Alumni Hall Courtyard – “St. Thomas Aquinas”; “St. Bonaventure with Cardinal’s Hat”
Dillon Hall – “St. Augustine, Bishop” (courtyard); “St. Jerome”; “Cardinal Newman, Scholar” (above west doorway)
Basilica of the Sacred Heart – “St. Joan of Arc”; “St. Michael Archangel”
Works by James Kress (Detroit)
Howard Hall – “St. Timothy”
The building now known as Crowley Hall originally housed the Institute of Technology, which comprised of the following departments: Theoretical and Experimental Engineering, Practical Mechanics, and Machine Drawing and Design. The University Architect’s Building Inventory lists Fr. John Zahm, CSC, and Brother Charles Harding, CSC, as principle architects. It is one of many examples of buildings on campus that have held a number of different functions over the years.
The 1892-1893 prospectus bulletin stated that “[t]his building has been erected on the most approved plans, after a study of the best institutions of the kind at home and abroad.” The 1893-1894 bulletin boasted that it was “a large and commodious building, devoted to the use of the students of civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. It is fully equipped with all the appliances for wood and metal working, and is supplied with the most approved forms of forges and cupolas for blacksmithing and foundry work. The rooms for mechanical drawing, and the laboratories for special experimental work in mechanical engineering are used, and are complete in all their appointments.”
In 1907, the Chemistry department settled into this building, which would then be dubbed “Chemistry Hall.” The Pharmacy Department had laboratories on the second floor.
On September 13, 1916, fire broke out in the phosphorus collection on the third floor, injuring a number of firemen, students, and spectators. With all the different chemicals and potential reactions in the building, the firemen had to use a different approach than water, which was only making matters worse. They used wet sand to extinguish the phosphorus fire and the South Bend firefighters left the scene eight hours later, saving the lower two floors.
A week later, however, some of the remaining phosphorous again ignited and continued to ravage the building, sending dangerous sparks as far away as St. Edward’s Hall. This occurred when class was being held in the already charred building. The building and its contents were pretty much destroyed, except for a small addition on the northeast corner, which remained untouched by the fire.
The cornerstone for new Chemistry Hall was laid at the 1917 commencement extercises and is now the Riley Hall of Art and Design. Nieuwland Hall was built in 1952 as a new facility for the Chemistry Department. Chemistry also has space in Stepan Chemistry Hall, which was completed in 1982 with an addition in 2002.
But the story of this 1893 building does not end with the fire. Notre Dame restored the building, which became Hoynes Hall, the home of the Law School until the Law School Building was completed in 1931. Later it housed the Architecture Department and Psychology Department, and it has been the home of the Music Department since 1976. It was named for Patrick F. Crowley, who founded the Christian Family Movement (CFM) with his wife Patricia. They were named Laetare Medalists in 1966. Crowley’s brother-in-law John Caron made the gift to the University in Crowley’s name. The Architecture Department moved to Lemonnier Library (now Bond Hall) when the Hesburgh Library opened in 1963. The Psychology Department moved to Haggar Hall in 1974.
In early spring, the snow begins to melt and the rains can be heavy, often creating soggy spots on campus. One known area in front of Badin Hall became known as “Badin Bog.” Comprising of the area between Badin and Walsh Halls, Badin Bog was the site of many pick-up and interhall football and baseball games and later Bookstore Basketball games.
In the 1920s, the area was purposely flooded and used as a hockey rink.
The construction of the Hammes Bookstore on South Quad in 1955 (later replaced by the Coleman Morse Center in 2001) helped alleviate the flooding problems. However, the Bullfrog mascot of Badin Hall continues to hearken back to the famous soupy surroundings.
“Sophocles by the electric light seems an anachronism”
As part of the 1882 Commencement exercises, Washington Hall was formally dedicated with a theatrical performance of Œdipus Tyrannus, completely in Greek, under electrical lights. This is one of the earliest references to the use of electrical lighting at Notre Dame. [Scholastic, 07/01/1882, page 641]
By 1885, Notre Dame had made much progress in electrifying buildings on campus, well ahead of other institutions and municipalities. The South Bend Weekly Tribune praised Notre Dame for its advancements: “It will be remembered by our South Bend people that Notre Dame University was considerably ahead of South Bend in adopting a system of lighting by electricity. There is nothing too progressive for Notre Dame. She is abreast of the times in all that goes toward making her one of the finest equipped institutions in this country.” [South Bend Weekly Tribune, 11/21/1885, from PNDP 10-Zz-15]
In 1887, Professor Michael O’Dea wrote a brief history and the current of the use of incandescent lights at Notre Dame for the New York Electrical Review. O’Dea refuted Bowdoin College’s claim to be “the first college in America to be lighted by electricity,” showing that Notre Dame had already been using electrical lights for six years. Below is the reprint from Scholastic, 03/26/1887, pages 460-461:
Electric lights on campus were not only used to facilitate late-night studying, they were also used to adorn the statue of the Virgin Mary atop the Main Building Dome with a crown of twelve stars above her head and a crescent moon at her feet.
The lights were installed between 1884 and 1885, a few years after the Dome itself was completed. The crown was first illuminated on October 23, 1884, but repairs and updates occurred in 1885. Luigi Gregori designed the crescent beneath the statue, which was completed in November 1885. When all the electric lights were fully illuminated for the first time, a South Bend Weekly Tribune reporter submitted the following account:
“As seen from the city, the light on the dome appears to be a solid blaze, having the appearance of an elongated moon. The light can be seen for miles from Notre Dame, and as last night was the first time it was fully lighted up, a great many people were filled with wonderment as to what it was.” [South Bend Weekly Tribune, 11/21/1885, from PNDP 10-Zz-15]
The crown and crescent electric lights on the Dome were removed some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, but the Dome itself is still illuminated every night. Electrical lighting is now a given, but for the students and faculty living at Notre Dame in the late 1800s, incandescent lighting was cutting-edge technology and a sharp difference from gas lighting.
The growing student population in the 1920s created demand for a new dining hall, a place where the entire student body could gather in one place on campus. The result was the South Dining Hall in the space formerly occupied by the Notre Dame Farms on South Quad. Planning for a new facility began around 1925 after the fire of the horse stables.
South Dining Hall was completed in 1927 and soon became an important part of student life at Notre Dame. Previously, students would eat in the refectory in Main Building, in the Badin Hall cafeteria, or at off-campus establishments. The new dining hall would be a place for students to bond in fraternity and a place for guests of the University to dine. In addition to the two wings, there was a cafeteria in the center (the old Oak Room, which was removed during the renovation in the late 1990s), and a faculty dining lounge on the second floor.
In 1928 The Hotel Monthly wrote an incredibly detailed report on the new dining hall at Notre Dame. The page above talks about the methodical lunch hour, with students taking their cues from flashing lights and ringing bells. Student waiters served the students, who were allowed seconds and thirds, if they desired, something that was virtually unheard of at other institutions.
Notre Dame has long used students workers to help with the many tasks in the dining hall to earn money for tuition and room and board. In the 1930s, football players also worked in the dining hall.
Years ago, students were assigned seats. Today, students sit where they please, but as part of human nature, they tend to gravitate to their usual tables. You can often hear students give their friends directions as to where they’ll be sitting once they get through the chaos of the food stations. For instance, “right/right” means the West Hall on the northern end.
According to this 1940 pass, theft of dining hall items could result in suspension or dismissal from the University:
Below was a typical weekly menu for the dining hall around the time it opened in 1927 along with statistics of the daily usages of common items.
“History, Tradition, and the New Dining Hall,” Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927
“The New Dining Hall, Architecturally,” by Professor Francis Kervick, Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927 PNDP 10-So-02: “Impressions of University of Notre Dame Dining Halls,” by John Willy, The Hotel Monthly, 1928 CNDS 1/23 GBBY 45F/2067 GNDL 7/38 GSOL 1/10
Father Edward Sorin and his compatriots began cultivating the land at Notre Dame shortly after their November 1842 arrival. The farms were developed “to provide food stuffs for its resident staff, faculty, and students, as well as to generate revenue to finance other aspects of its educational work.” [“The Notre Dame Farms, 1843-1940,” by Thomas Schlereth; The Old Courthouse News, winter 1975; PNDP 30-FA-8]
“An extensive complex of farm buildings was gradually constructed along the southeastern shore of St. Mary’s Lake as well as on the higher ground now enclosed by Corby, Sorin, Walsh, and Badin Halls” [Schlereth]
The farm buildings included an ice-house, slaughter house, horse barn, dairy and cattle barns, “wagon sheds, tool houses, corn cribs, implement sheds, and wheat granaries. … Scattered among the farm buildings were water toughs fed by windmills and wells” [Schlereth].
Around 1900, the University moved the farm to South Quad and built a number of buildings. “The farm complex included several farm houses for the brothers and hired hands, the University horse barn and livery, a dairy barn with a large Holstein herd, a circular barn and surrounding sties for raising over 700 Hampshire hogs, a hennery, and several grain-storage buildings. Fields of corn, alfalfa, and wheat stretched beyond these structures to the South Bend city limits” [The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of Its History and Campus, Thomas Schlereth, page 150].
In 1900, Brother Leo Donovan became director of the Notre Dame farms. He went to Illinois and Iowa universities to learn agriculture techniques. He renewed the farms at Notre Dame, which had become severely depleted due to a lack of crop rotation and proper fertilization of the fields. In 1917, Brother Leo established an Agriculture School at Notre Dame, which was eventually discontinued in 1932.
Brother Leo also became renowned in animal husbandry. His livestock won many awards over the years at State Fairs and the International Stock Show in Chicago. “Named Indiana State Champion Feeder in 1937, he supplied and slaughtered (in structures formerly behind Moreau Seminary) all the beef and pork for the University kitchens and shipped the surplus to the Chicago stockyards” [UND, Schlereth, page 152].
On October 13, 1925, the Notre Dame barn on South Quad burned and the University moved the farms to land east of campus near Bulla Road. This newly opened space eventually made way for new dormitories and South Dining Hall. All farming activity was later moved to St. Joseph’s Farm in Granger, Indiana.
In 1867, the University bought 1300 acres of land near Granger and called this farm St. Joseph’s Farm, which “produced everything for the University from peat for fireplaces to tobacco for faculty cigars” [“The Notre Dame Farms,” Schlereth]. This farm was active until 1995, as it became less viable and there were fewer men entering the seminary with farming skills [South Bend Tribune, 03/18/1995, page A1, PNDP 30-Fa-8].