St. Edward's as it was originally built.
St. Edward's, constructed in 1882, is the oldest dorm on campus. (Don't worry. Since then, they have put in running water and electricity.) One of several campus buildings in the National Register of Historic Places, St. Edward's is the only residence hall in the register. On April 20, 1882, Father Sorin laid the cornerstone to the building that would house his "Princes". 1 St. Ed's was built using bricks shaped and baked by Holy Cross Brothers from the marl of the campus lakes. These bricks give the dorm it's distinctive yellow tone. When first erected, the dorm was half it's size today, consisting of only a single wing and housing fewer than one hundred. Initially, the building was not used to house collegians, but instead children from Notre Dame's grammar school, whom Fr. Sorin affectionately called "Minims".2
The distinctive yellow bricks of St. Edward's
At that time, one could attend Notre Dame from the cradle to the grave, and many took advantage of this to become "lifers". Fr. Sorin, the founder, president, and patriarch of Notre Dame until his death in 1893, was very attached to these children and demanded only the best for them. He was the driving force behind St. Edward's Hall, which was named for King Edward, Sorin's patron saint. Sorin considered St. Ed's a "palace" and its residents his "princes".3 It was indeed a sight to behold: wrought iron staircases, murals inside and out, and a beautiful garden surrounding a statue of St. Edward (which still stands). In 1898, the St. Ed's annex was constructed, containing a gym, a roller skating rink, and a library for the grade school. The annex survived until 1930 when it was razed to make way for Zahm Hall (the Zahm guys live on what used to be our land, and after three quarters of a century we are still bitter).
Knute Rockne received his First Communion in the Chapel in St. Edward's in November of 1924. Four years later the grade school was phased out and St. Ed's was converted to house 200 college men, 20 more than its current capacity. In those days, halls were assigned by grade point average. St. Ed's was the home of the sophomores with the lower GPA's (some things never change). During World War II, the armed forces controlled most of the buildings on campus, so the student body consisted primarily of military personnel. Only St. Ed's and Sorin were reserved for civilian students.
Fire engulfs St. Ed's top stories
Over the years, St. Ed's gained a tenement-like appearance. Finally, in 1976, the university gave our hall a face-lift, which resulted in a brighter, cleaner, and more modern looking dorm. Unfortunately, in June of 1981, St. Ed's was extensively damaged by fire. During installation a sprinkler system for the dorm a fire set the dorm ablaze and destroyed the 3rd and 4th floor. For a while the future of St. Ed's was in doubt as the university contemplated whether or not the hall was worth rebuilding. Fortunately, the administration came to its senses, due in part to alumni contributions. St. Ed's was therefore rebuilt and the original architectural plans were adhered to as closely as possible. Reconstruction brought a new wing and a revamped fourth floor. Since then, St. Edward's has carried on its tradition as Father Sorin's favorite dorm and home of the Gentlemen.
St. Edward and his dorm today
1 "St. Edward's Hall." The Story of Notre Dame. University of Notre Dame. 19 May 2009 < http://archives.nd.edu>.