Postcard views of Notre Dame


Notre Dame Fieldhouse, built in 1899.

Notre Dame Fieldhouse, built in 1899.

The description below is from The University of Notre Dame: A Portrait of Its History and Campus by Thomas Schlereth. It was written in 1976.

The Fieldhouse, now a decrepit hulk, falling down about itself, [It was demolished in 1968] was once an imposing, castellated edifice and the pride of President Andrew Morrissey, who built it. Morrissey, as his corpulence indicated was not a practitioner of athletics, but he did believe in the athletic ideal, mens sana in corpore sano ("a healthy mind in a healthy body"). Unfortunately, the 1898 gymnasium that he built burned down in 1899. Undaunted, Morrissey promptly authorized the immediate reconstruction of "one of the largest college gymnasia in the United States." Despite Morrissey's claims of its modernity, he did not hesitate to reuse its old 1898 cornerstone.

The rebuilt Fieldhouse was fireproof ( a distinction usually given to Notre Dame buildings when they were reconstructed after fires), and its interior space (180' x 100') was used for track-and-field events as well as indoor baseball and football practice. Basketball was played on the clay court that had to be watered down and rolled daily. Resembling a great white train shed with 122 skylights of fluted glass, the inside of the building's half-domed ceiling was finished in pressed steel of classical and Renaissance designs. In 1925 a basketball annex complete with a movable hardwood court and a gallery seating 6,000 spectators was added to the 1899 building.  This extension, whose public entrance was on old Juniper Road, enabled the basketball varsity to play its home games on the campus instead of at the South Bend YMCA. Gate receipts from Notre Dame's first and only Rose Bowl appearance in 1925 helped pay for the new addition.

For more than three-quarters of a century, the Fieldhouse has had a multifaceted history. Its basketball arena, first a dirt-floor anachronism and then a pressurized capsule of cacophony, was always a disarming experience for opponents. From its balcony the rituals of mass hysteria known as football pep rallies were enacted on appropriate Friday evenings each autumn. In its central area, various initiation rites took place such as the annual Bengal Boxing Bouts and the June commencement exercises. Here Rockne and Westbrook Pegler shook hands, supposedly to end a famous feud; here occupants of Carroll Hall refectory would compete in relay races for special cherry pastry tarts; here visiting dignitaries (FDR, W.B. Yeats, G.K. Chesterton) addressed the University; here students held their Mock Political Convention and their annual Mardi Gras; and now [1976] here the art department has many of its studios, a huge ceramics workshop and kilns and the Isis student art gallery.


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