Seeking Living Quarters in This Territory

Dormitories: Living, Learning, Chapels...and Curfews

sorin hall
sorin hall

Bellairs then moved to Room 119 of Sorin Hall, strictly a junior hall in 1957 and the oldest and most prestigious residence halls on campus. Sorin Hall was Notre Dame's first residence hall, built in 1888 and at a time when high ceilings were in style. Bellairs occupied such a room, a splendid high-ceilinged corner turret room in the southeast corner on the first floor. In his debut Scholastic article, Bellairs identifies the hall as "South Bend's answer to the House of Usher" and notes, quite truthfully confirms Myers, that:

My room is at least 15 feet high, its exact height being a mystery because of the everpresent cloud formations, and is decorated to resemble a cross between a Victorian tenement and a Pompeian attic.
The following year Bellairs benefited from Sorin's reclassification from a junior to a senior hall as he triumphantly held on to his highly treasured room - "perfect for the bull sessions that are such an indispensable feature of college life," says Myers. Another student, Robert Sedlack, also remembers how that the high-ceilinged room of Bellairs "always seemed busy with people stopping in and out to chat."

Bellairs kept his room pretty cloudy with pipe smoke. "He was especially fond of a big calabash of the kind traditionally associated with Sherlock Holmes," recalls Bowen. "When he went out he carried smaller pipes with him, but in his room he preferred the calabash." Myers notes this habit was abandoned in early adulthood.

"Also, the junk he collected in his room ran to gothic (in the old sense) and grotesque kitsch - pipe racks with little carved faces and figures, beer mugs bearing sentimental verses in German (Trink was klär ist; lieb was rär ist), that sort of thing," adds Bowen. "Miniature cuspidors probably were included in the collection, though I don't remember them in particular."

While Bellairs chose a spacious first floor room, other seniors went underground to the basement, an area not originally scheduled for human habitation. These rooms, added some time after the hall was built, had ceilings of a more normal height. "Why did some of the rest of us choose, or even scheme to get, the basement?" asked felllow student Philips Gibson years later. "Did living underground help us feel like an intellectual bohemian type? Or was it because the priest who was the rector lived on the first floor? He was reasonably permissive about things like drinking, but hiding underground gave extra security. It was understood he would never come down to the lower depths and poke around."

Gibson also notes that the verbal description of Prospero's house, and the frontispiece illustration of The Face in the Frost, reminds him of "weird old Sorin Hall, compact and cubical, with its two round pointy towers - definitely our fustiest campus residence."

Besides the rooms, of which the Scholastic reported as "large enough to encourage study, and at the same time small enough to discourage visiting," Sorin featured a large front porch built in 1905 with dual swings facing the oldest part of campus. A history of Sorin notes "this porch over the years has been so popular among students that it is recognized campus-wide along with Sorin's majestic turrets as a symbol of the character of the students within." The residence is south of the Sacred Heart Basilica and Main Building.

There were three or four rooms between the front door and the turret room where Bellairs lived; these rooms appears to have been swallowed up to create a student lounge following massive hall renovations during the 1980s.