a scholarly attempt

John Bellairs
October 31, 1958, Scholastic #5

In answer to a charge (made up for the occasion) that I do not devote enough space to things of permanent value, I am presenting a scholarly work which should be of much value to students of architecture, and which will certainly hasten the death of some professors.

An Architectural History of the Buildings on the Campus

BADIN HALL

This building is an excellent example of the period known as Dungeon Revival or Early Tenement. An interesting feature of these building is the complete absence of any kind of front entrance. This has caused much confusion, and recently it was suggested that one side be arbitrarily labeled "Front," and another "Side," and so on, although this procedure would undoubtedly stifle the creative imaginations of many students, Badin Hall was originally intended as a display for the Homecoming Game of 1903, which was held on Halloween. It captures much of the picturesque flavor of condemned buildings, while retaining an incomparable air of imminent collapse. The other buildings of the is fruitful period, Sorin, Washington Hall, the main Building, etc., have been glorified too much in print already to require any descriptions by me.

THE MORRISSEY-HOWARD-LYONS QUADRANGLE

This interesting group is done in the style which is known as Early-Football Grandeur; which is divided into two subsections, Depression Ivy-League and Tudor Gothic. Collectively, Lyons and Morrissey may be described as Tudor Gothic, since the first is Tudor, while the second is Gothic. The rear of Lyons is especially Tudor, with its half-timbered archway and mullioned windows. The students who live in this section of the hall are conscious of their historical heritage, and are seen wearing forked beards and velvet doublets on occasion.

Every now and then a student is elected to preside as Henry VIII, and executions are held in the halls after lights-out. On the other hand, the Goths of Morrissey are divided into Ostrogoths and Visigoths and hold intramural warfare. A favorite practice of these tradition-minded students is sacking the Golf Shop. This contributes to no end of student rivalry. Howard is such a fine example of its type that it has been kept as a museum for some time (see July 8 issue of "Famous Dormitories of Western Man"; also "The Dormitory Considered as Museum"). Thus, no students are allowed to live in it, and it is populated only by excess rectors and archaic caretakers. This accounts for the fact that nobody knows anyone who lives in Howard. Those who think they live in Howard should send a postcard to me, and I will arrange for an interview to straighten them out on this rather difficult problem.

DILLON HALL

This magnificent edifice done in Neo-Ivy-Covered-Harvard-Imitation, has more rooms and less living space than any hall on campus. This is due to the fact that 96.3% of all floor space is covered by interminable corridors, which give the hall the unique quality usually reserved for the Catacomb of St. Callixtus. These corridors hold a vast amount of stagnant, slightly greenish air, since there is no ventilation of any kind in the hall. A biologist, interested in the problem, recently analyzed a sample of air in the northeast corridor of Dillon Hall, and found that it dated from June 3, 1935. LOBUND is planning an expedition to this fruitful sited, in hopes of finding even more archaic samples (not counting students).

Other interesting statistics on Dillon: it is composed of 6.3 trillion bricks, made on the job by students who were working off their bill at the Book Store. All the students in Dillon, if laid end to end on Notre Dame Avenue, would certainly by horribly mangled by passing cars. This hall also contains an economy feature - sinks without faucets. This will doubtless cut down on needless water usage.

THE BIOLOGY BLDG.

This is a representative type of the style of architecture known as Late Factory. What kind of factory this building was before it was consecrated to biology is not known, but it is believed that the McClosky Rubbish Co. built it. The company folded in 1903, when it was discovered that South Bend was already blessed with a surfeit of rubbish, and the leftover stock was piled next to Washington Hall, and is called the "Old Huddle," a corruption of "Old Rubble."

An interesting feature of the Biology Building is the magnificently sculptured frieze over the main entrance. It is intended to depict the Spirit of Smallpox being routed by the armed figures of Cortisone and Formaldehyde. Professor McTrash has not yet admitted that he created this, but perhaps he is only being coy.

THE ARCHITECTURE BLD.

It is fitting that this penetrating (perhaps you prefer "boring") article be climaxed by a description of the home of our architectural skills. This building, a near replica of the Taunton, Mass., Police Station was until recently, famed for its luxuriant ivy, which concealed an otherwise vile exterior. When the underbrush was removed, a sign was revealed which proudly stated that the building was the Hoynes College of Law, much to the confusion of freshmen law students.

The story behind this odd name was revealed by Professor T. X. Cuneiform, the campus authority on Odd Incidents. It seems that, in the fall of 1878, Notre Dame and Harvard were engaged in a bitter rivalry. This was the pre-football era, and the sport then was Scavenger-Hunt, a game in vogue at the time. This custom for the previous ten seasons had been to make a list of things possessed by Hoynes University of East Wagon Rut, British Columbia. Then the two rival teams would descend upon this hapless Canadian campus and ransack freely the movable possessions of all sizes and shapes, with victory going to the team with the most loot. This outing came to be both a Student Trip for Harvard and Notre Dame and a fierce intramural battle, in which the students of Hoynes U. could take no part. This, of course, disturbed the Hoynes students who were irritated by the annual sacking of their campus. Therefore, they began to lock up and nail down everything of any importance on campus, with the result that the excursion became an even greater challenge to the teams of Notre Dame and Harvard in 1878.

The Notre Dame team arrived a full day ahead of the Harvard group, and stormed into East Wagon Rut, looking for things to pillage. Suddenly the eye of the captain fell on the Hoynes College of Law, which was a building noted for its collection of Byzantine murals. It was no time at all before the team had put this edifice on rollers and started it to the railroad station, where it was dismantled and spread evenly throughout the passenger cars. The trip home was enlivened by skirmishes with itinerant Harvard bands on their way to Hoynes, but the treasure arrived at South Bend intact, and was set up where it stands today. The ivy was removed to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Destruction of Hoynes (completed by Harvard in 1879). Truth is stranger than fiction.


Commentary

There's not too much that really needs explanation here as it's a good example of John making something out of nothing.

Architecturally the buildings in the sophomore quadrangle were built in a style officially labeled Tudor Gothic, explains Bowen. "In fact this was the label applied to most of the buildings constructed on the campus between the twenties and the early fifties such as O'Shaughnessy Hall, the Liberal and Fine Arts building, where English majors like John and I had most of our classes. Two new dormitories built at around the same time were in a style that might be called Squarish Moderne. Anyway, John was accurate in labeling the sophomore quad Early Football Grandeur, in that the prewar building boom was nourished by the University's new cash cow." Myers confirms Bellairs is fairly accurate in that they were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s and that his description of tudor gothic is not too far off the mark: "they were your standard ivy-covered stone collegiate buildings of the period."

For those interested in campus history, Myers says Badin Hall is indeed one of the oldest on campus, dating back to the 19th century. "It is rather nondescript and boxy. As I remember it had an exterior porch supported by iron pillars, much like the architecture in the French Quarter of New Orleans, but without the filigreed iron work or the charm. It truly had no main entrance, just a couple of nondescript doors on various sides of the building."

Morrissey, Lyons, and Howard halls truly did form a quadrangle, with the fourth side opening onto the main quadrangle that forms the east-west axis of the campus. "During our era, these were all sophomore residence halls, and there was a definite pecking order among them," says Myers. "Lyons Hall, with a picturesque archway cutting through the building and a fine view of St, Mary's lake in in side, was by far the most desirable. As students chose their rooms each year in order of grade point average, those in Lyons were generally snapped up first. Howard, at the opposite end from Lyons, was somewhere in the middle, though it had some truly excellent rooms. Morrissey, the hall in the middle, was the least desirable, and it tended to be regarded as a hall for jocks (but the actual scholarship athletes were spread more or less evenly throughout all the residence halls with no separation whatever from the rest of the student body). It should be noted that both Bellairs and I lived in Howard Hall during the 1956-57 year, I and my roommate in an excellent room having three-way ventilation (it was in a wing of the building) and John in a single room." Bellairs' comment about residents sending him a postcard evoked a response from the columnist in his November 14 column.

"Dillon Hall was indeed very big and alleged to be airless," says Bowen. "John suggested that its architecture was imitation Ivy League, which is a fair enough criticism of all Notre Dame's Tudor Gothic buildings, but Harvard was the wrong choice. Yale went for Gothic, but Harvard went for Georgian. Of course John, not having been out of the Midwest, didn't know this, although we eastern sophisticates were always willing to set him and other rubes straight."

Bowen also points out the the Huddle was the name of the student snack bar. "When we arrived on campus in 1955, the University had recently opened a new student center that included a much larger and more up-to-date Huddle, but the original one was kept open and renamed 'The Old Huddle.' It occupied a small, square, rather squalid-looking brick building. Many of the oldest buildings on campus seemed to have been made of a form of brick that deteriorated over time, the original yellow becoming blacker and blacker until they wound up somewhere between battleship gray and olive drab - a fairly depressing prospect." Myers notes the greatly expanded but ghastly food court is occupied by all the usual culprits of fast food chains.

LOBUND refers to Laboratory of Biology, University of Notre Dame -- "which has been quite celebrated since the 1930s for its research on raising animals in germ-free environments," says Myers, adding that the Biology Building, dating back to about the turn of the century, was physically attached to one of the then-newest buildings on campus, the Nieuland Hall of Science. Washington Hall was (and is) the campus's main auditorium and the location of the College Quiz Bowl when it came to South Bend.

During Bellairs' time on campus, the Architecture Building was indeed cleared of its ivy cover, and this process did reveal a sign saying Hoynes College of Law. "That's as far as the facts go, of course," says Bowen. "John took off from there. I suppose Hoynes was either an early benefactor or one of the University's first law professors. When the Law School moved into bigger quarters the name did not move with it, so the sign surprised everyone. In comparing the building to the police station of Taunton, Massachusetts, John may have been twitting me; that is the city where my high school was located."

"Bellairs' reference to a Notre Dame-Harvard rivalry is pure fantasy," Myers says. "We had no relations whatever with Harvard, which in fact snubbed an offer to schedule them for football in the early 1920s."


The snide nickname Professor McTrash is a Bellairsian dig at one of the most celebrated Notre Dame professors of that era, Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, who had begun teaching at the university in 1955.

Myers says Meštrović was a perfect fit for Notre Dame: “he was drawn to religious subjects and worked in what I would describe as a post-Michelangelo style, powerful figures but with expressions reflecting Twentieth Century angst.” Myers also recalls one Meštrović story, involving him and Bellairs: “the two of us were emerging from a downtown movie theater after having seen a Hollywood mangling of The Brothers Karamazov, when we spotted Mestrovic in the crowd, by himself, wearing a beret, with sort of a hangdog what-the-hell-am-I-doing-in-South Bend look. Bellairs said to me, ‘He'll probably rush up to you and say 'At last! I've found the perfect model for my new sculpture, The Spirit Of Loutishness!’’ Score one for John on that round, but I generally gave as good as I got on such exchanges.”

Bowen remembers Meštrović as part of another story, one about a French artist named Jean Charlot: "A member of the University of Hawaii faculty, Notre Dame twice brought Charlot to the campus to teach summer courses in fresco, the artist’s specialty. Frescos are created by applying paint to plaster while it is still wet, so a fresco class needs something more than canvas in the way of art supplies - it needs a wall, which implies a room, which implies a building.

"Meštrović had his own studio where he taught the graduate students; it was attached to, but not part of, the I. A. O'Shaughnessy Hall of Liberal and Fine Arts, which had been built just before John and I arrived on campus for the first time. Most of our classes were taught there, and so were the art classes.

"The main entrance of the building led through an imposing Great Hall that didn't have much on the walls, and Charlot thought it would be an excellent place for the fresco that he and his summer class were going to create. However, this proposal was vetoed by Father Charles E. Sheedy, Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts and ruler of the building. Instead, Charlot was told that his class could create their fresco on the wall of the student lounge.

This might have been all right if the student lounge had been even halfway imposing, but it was, in fact, a total afterthought: an ordinary classroom-sized room on the basement level into which a soft drink machine, a coffee pot, and some cheap plastic chairs and tables had been stuck when the authorities realized that a lot of students would be hanging around the building between classes on days when it wasn't pleasant enough to go outside. The only other thing I remember about this mostly unmemorable room is that it smelled strongly of cement."

During the summer, Charlot created the piece entitled Fresco Class in Action (painted June 18-July 15, 1955). Myers says it was an audition of sorts, as it was rumored that if reaction to the painting was positive that Charlot would get to do a fresco on the wall of the Great Hall the following summer. “Realize that I would have had to be privy to secrets in high places to know whether he was actually promised this, or cleverly led to believe it, or whether he was merely hallucinating,” Myers adds.

When students returned for the fall term they found one wall of the student lounge covered with an impressive fresco depicting Charlot and his summer students at work on, of all things, a fresco. “Underneath was a Latin quotation to the effect that it was jolly good fun to work as brothers in unity. It was good, and it certainly spiffed up the squalid lounge, though the small dimensions and low ceilings of the room didn't suit the heroic figures in the fresco as well as a larger space would have.”

The following summer Charlot arrived in South Bend ready to start on a wall on the Great Hall, but again was met with resistance from Father Sheedy. Instead Charlot could paint the opposite wall in the student lounge. Myers says Charlot was angry, of course, but he had come all the way from Hawaii; students were waiting for him, and he couldn't walk out without disappointing them. So he agreed. That year Charlot decided that the subject of his students' collective effort would be Meštrović and his grad students at work.

“Now, Charlot did not admire Mestrovic,” Myers says. “The great Croatian sculptor had done his best work in the heyday of independent Yugoslavia, between the world wars. Now he was in exile from the Communist regime, and he was an old man whose great creative days were over. The university had spent a large amount of money (remember that private studio) to lure him to South Bend, because it was desperate to have a noted artist (and a Catholic one) in permanent residence on the campus. I don't know whether Meštrović's sense of self-importance had been inflated by this treatment, or whether he just had a naturally big ego, as many creative people of course do but certainly Charlot had found not found him friendly and thought the old man was subject to delusions of grandeur."

The second fresco (Mestrovic's Studio - July 9-17, 1956) took shape on the wall opposite the previous summer's work. Like that first, the work was crowded with muscular figures on a heroic scale, deeply engaged in artistic work, and surrounded by the tools of their trade. Almost half of the picture was taken up by students working on a huge head that was the face of Meštrović, neatly caricatured, with an enormous compass used to measure the huge, beaky nose.

The mural was created section by section - because the plaster had to be wet when paint was applied - but the lower right corner of Charlot’s second mural remained devoid of activity. When they finished their final day of work, the corner was still undone, and Charlot, who was to depart for Hawaii the next morning, said not to worry, that he would finish it. Myers tells that the artist worked alone, late into the night.

After the artist's departure the next morning, Myers says Joe McDonnell, an art student he knew and the source of this story, was summoned to the student lounge by Father Sheedy. “Sheedy showed him the finished fresco. In the lower right corner, on the table that was supposed to be empty except for a couple of lumps of clay, stood a tiny terra-cotta figurine. It was a wicked caricature of the good Father himself, with his biretta on his head and the little cape worn by Holy Cross fathers around his shoulders. ‘Can you get rid of that?’ the distraught dean asked. Joe explained that this was impossible; the paint had penetrated the plaster, and there was no way to remove the offensive caricature without destroying the fresco. (I assume this is true, but Joe might have exaggerated a bit; he had been Charlot's student and was of course on his side.) So the little figurine remained in the picture for all of us to see when we came back in the fall. Charlot's Revenge! By the way, Joe McDonnell didn't tell me this story directly; he told it to Andy Connelly and I got it from him. I may have introduced distortions, but the gist of it is true.