Postcard views of Notre Dame


A vintage lithograph showing the Administration Building II and the unique garden landscaping of the period.

A vintage lithograph showing the Administration Building II and the unique garden landscaping of the period.

The following description of the second Administration Building of Notre Dame is from the excellent book on Notre Dame campus history, The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of Its History and Campus by Thomas J. Schlereth.

In 1863, despite the financial strains imposed by the Civil War, Sorin decided to expand Notre Dame by commissioning the erection of Main Building II. Reverend Patrick Dillon, C.S.C., University vice-president and later president (1865-66) had William Thomas, a Chicago architect, draw up plans for a structure that would utilize a major part of Main Building I and be built on the same site.

Documentary and visual sources suggest that the gabled roof of Main Building I was removed, its porch and middle facade altered, and several extra floors added, along with an impressive mansard roof; to create Main Building II. Its dimensions were 160 feet long (exactly the size of Main Building I), 80 feet wide, and 90 feet, or six stories high. Construction on Main Building II began after the spring semester in 1865, with work on the structure far enough along for it to be occupied by the returning student body in the fall.

Main Building II's interior arrangements were, with one exception, an expanded version of those in Main Building I. There were two large refectories, with washroom facilities in its basement and three study halls located on the first floor- two for preparatory students and one for the collegians. The third floor, reached by a double flight of stairs, housed 13 classrooms and five sleeping rooms for faculty .The fourth, fifth and sixth floors were all dormitories. In the front of the sixth floor (note circular stained-glass window) was a chapel.

To dramatize his aspirations to have Notre Dame play a significant role in American Catholic education, Sorin and his community staged the dedication ceremonies for Main Building II in order to promote greater national visibility for the school. Every bishop in the country and every important cleric and congressman in the Midwest was invited to attend the activities that took place on May 31, 1866. In a public relations coup, Sorin persuaded the Archbishop of Baltimore - Martin J . Spalding, top-ranking American prelate and convener of the Second Plenary Council that year- to come to Notre Dame and officiate at the day's events. In addition to blessing all the building's accoutrements - including 52 stands of medieval armor and the natural history museum's cases of spiders and butterflies - Spalding offered prayers over a new, 12-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The statue, with a large crown, was placed on a pedestal atop the building's wooden dome, clad with tin sheeting and painted white. A contemporary guidebook reported it was "surrounded by a light and graceful belvedere, whence a view of great extent displays the panorama of prairie scenery, and whose lofty and protected platform serves as a landmark by day."

Those attending the dedication ceremonies--events that took place, one local diarist noted, "in the presence of the largest concourse of people ever gathered at Notre Dame" -also toured the building's grounds. A white picket fence enclosed a college yard, approximately an acre square, in front of Main Building II. At the south end of the yard one found the road to Lowell and South Bend, Indiana. Here were located the University's porter's lodge and its federal post office secured through the efforts of Senator Henry Clay in 1851. Within the college yard  were two circular structures - a Victorian gazebo and the University's first observatory. Formal and naturalistic plantings of trees and shrubs could likewise be found here, along with cast-iron fountains and flower urns. In the decade after its erection, Main Building II's south landscape took on more space and symbolism. The idea of a campus yard yielded to one of cour d'honneur a small park setting inspired by French landscape practice. The planting pattern within the cour d'honneur resembled the Divine Heart, the Sacre-Coeur, a religious symbol prominent in the devotional practice of 19th-century French Catholicism and an emblem adopted by the Holy Cross community .The Sacred Heart was also the patron of the University's two main churches. In 1893, a statue of the sacred Heart of Jesus by Robert Cassiani was placed in the heart of the heart-garden. The sculpture, still standing, on a pedestal of Scotch granite, was modeled upon a similar statue at the celebrated French shrine at Montmartre.




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