Irish Legends

Join the Irish Legends tour of campus, as we pick up where we left off in part one. In this segment, we will explore the lakes of Notre Dame and all of the hidden gems around them.

When Fr. Sorin first named Notre Dame, he called it Notre Dame Du Lac. In French, it means "Our Lady of the Lake." However, at Notre Dame there are two lakes: St. Mary's Lake and St. Joseph's Lake. Many legends surround the history of the lakes. Some say that the separation between the two lakes was man-made. Others say that in Indiana, private lakes could not exceed a certain size, and that Notre Dame was forced to separate the lake into two parts, in order to maintain it as private land. While many believe these stories, the truth is that Fr. Sorin simply made a mistake. When Fr. Sorin first arrived, it was winter in South Bend. With an abundance of snow and the lakes frozen over, he misjudged the land to be one large lake, rather than two separate bodies of water. He once wrote,

"Everything was frozen over. Yet it all seemed so beautiful. The lake, especially, with its broad carpet of dazzling white snow, quite naturally reminded us of the spotless purity of our August Lady whose name it bears, and also of the purity of soul that should mark the new inhabitants of this chosen spot."

Further proof to debunk the man-made separation myth, was that prior to Fr. Sorin naming the land Notre Dame du Lac, the land had been known as "Sainte-Marie-des-Lacs." In French that translates to "St. Mary's of the Lakes." Therefore, as far back as Notre Dame history traces it, there have always been two lakes.

The lakes are located north and west of Notre Dame's "God Quad," where we last left our tour. Heading down from the Golden dome, we walk past The Grotto and arrive at St. Mary's Lake. The two lakes, side by side, cover around 45 acres of land, and form a figure-eight running trail familiar to runners on-campus. At the bottom of each lake is one of Notre Dame's hidden treasures. The lakes are lined with rich marl. Marl, which can best be described as a lime-rich mud, is seen all over campus in the form of distinct yellow bricks in many of the buildings on-campus. It has repeatedly claimed that Notre Dame's lakes have some of the finest marl in the country: a true natural treasure.

As you start to walk around St. Mary's Lake, in a clockwise direction, you will see what is referred to as Old College. Old College, which now houses the seminary, was the first brick building constructed on-campus in 1843. It was the original "Main Building" with places for students to live, eat, and attend class. Victim to one of the many fires in Notre Dame's early history, the building is only a fraction of what it used to be. However, it still stands strong today, and is the oldest building on the Notre Dame campus.

Right next to Old College is the Log Chapel. Part of the original Old College, the Log Chapel was built in 1832, and was originally known as the "Indian Chapel." The building standing there today is an accurate replica of the original chapel, built in 1906. The Indian Chapel, was used until around 1848, and then caught fire in 1856. The log chapel though seldom used today, is still one of only three places on-campus that the diocese allows couples to marry—the other two being the Basilica and the Lady Chapel located in the back of the Basilica. The Log chapel is only large enough to hold a few dozen people at one time. Currently it is also the burial home for four priests. In February of 1987, Fr. Hesburgh decided that Fr. DeSeille, Fr. Benjamin Petit, and Fr. Cointet, should be moved from the Crypt to the Log Chapel, where Fr. Badin was buried. All three had been buried under the original Indian Chapel before Fr. Sorin moved them to the crypt. DeSeille and Petit were instrumental in establishing relations with the Potawatomi Indians before Sorin's arrival, while Fr. Cointet was one of the pioneer Holy Cross priests in growing Northern Indiana, as well as a classmate of Fr. Sorin.

Continuing along the lake, watching out for geese, bikers, and giant squirrels, you will come to Carroll Hall—home of the Vermin. Originally built in 1906 as a seminary for the Brothers of Holy Cross, the Dujare Institute, was sold to the University in the 1960's. The dorm was renamed after Charles Carroll, the last living and only catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Charles was also the cousin of John Carroll. Prior to being the namesake of the dorm, Carroll had the high school wing of the Main Building named for him. Affectionately regarded as the only campus dorm to be located "off-campus," the dorm sits on the far side of St. Mary's Lake, overlooking the Golden Dome. Residents get plenty of use out of their bicycles and are frequently late for class due to their long commute. One of the biggest challenges for Vermin is dating, as it would take a miracle to get a girl to trek all the way to Carroll Hall, especially on cold winter nights. Despite the social disadvantages, Carroll Hall does boast the largest dorm rooms on-campus, and has one of the smallest student populations. This means that dorm living is luxurious and strong camaraderie leads to one of the proudest dorms on-campus. You may also recognize Carroll Hall from one of their campus traditions. If you happen to be on-campus in December, the Vermin invite the entire campus to join them as they light up a giant Christmas tree and sing carols to bring in the holiday spirit. Carroll Hall is also known for the "GO IRISH" sign that is draped across the front of the dorm on football Saturdays. Even if you have never been to campus, you have likely seen this from the Goodyear blimp on NBC. It is a giant white sheet, with "GO IRISH" written in green. Given the size and location of the dorm, there are not many football players that have called Carroll Hall home over the years, with the exception of one of Carroll's most famous alumni, Carlyle Holiday.

Continuing around the path of St. Mary's Lake, be sure to keep your head on a swivel for bicyclists and runners, but also keep your eye on the Golden Dome. Looking across the lake, with the Dome glistening in the sun, is one of the greatest sights on-campus, and one that is sure to be seen on several postcards and posters in the bookstore. On the westernmost tip of the lake, you may be surprised to find a hidden basketball court amongst the trees of St. Mary's Lake. With an abundance of basketball courts throughout campus, it is safe to say that only the Vermin of Carroll Hall actually use this court, but it provides yet another picturesque place on-campus to visit, and participate in a nice game of pick-up basketball while you're at it. The only caution here is that you do not slip on fallen leaves that litter the playing surface.

Making the turn around the lake and heading back towards the main campus, you will notice on your left a small ranch with numerous bird feeders and waddling guests. This is the Fatima Retreat Center. Fatima used to be a place where both students of the University and people from all over would come and enjoy a weekend retreat. For students, it was a chance to get away from the University and relax. For outsiders, it was a chance to experience a weekend at Notre Dame and sometimes even get football tickets during the fall. That all changed in December of 2004, when the facility closed its doors. It now serves as a retirement home for Holy Cross priests, but will be missed by the hundreds that retreated there each year, looking for that special place on-campus.

Rounding St. Mary's Lake and approaching The Grotto again, you will notice a bench and small monument sitting on the side of a hill. This marks where Holy Cross Hall once stood. Today a monument remembers the hall, and a bench with hundreds of lovebirds' initials carved into it, is one of the more romantic spots on-campus. More than a handful of marriage proposals have occurred on that bench, so be careful who you bring there. Holy Cross Hall, built in 1885, was originally a high school seminary. However, in 1891, it would be renamed from St. Aloysius Scholasticate to Holy Cross Hall. From 1967-1990, the Hall would be a men's dormitory and home to some of the free-thinkers on Notre Dame's campus. Host of such events as the "Hog Bowl," a charity football game, and "Hogstock" a music festival held before it was torn down in 1990, Holy Cross is the only dorm that former residents cannot come back and visit anymore. While Grace and Flanner are no longer dormitories, their buildings still remain. However, Holy Cross Hall was demolished in 1990 after it was determined that it had deteriorated into disrepair. Perhaps the most famous resident of Holy Cross Hall was Fr. Theodore Hesburgh himself. Fr. Hesburgh lived there as a seminarian, well before it became a male dormitory. Secluded from campus but alongside St. Mary's Lake and The Grotto, Holy Cross Hall may have had one of the best locations on-campus. Unfortunately for the former "Hogs," their one-time home is now only a memory.

That concludes the tour of St. Mary's Lake. No matter what the season, St. Mary's Lake is always one of the most scenic places on-campus. It is also home to the Fisher Regatta, one of the most unique and notable dorm events at Notre Dame. Each spring, usually on the same day as the Blue-Gold game, Fisher Hall hosts their Regatta tournament. Each dorm is invited to participate in a race across St. Mary's Lake in homemade boats. Boats can also receive a prize for originality, which there never seems to be a shortage of in this event. Fishermen (residents of Fisher Hall) barbecue and party as anxious participants and onlookers, wait to see if their dorm ship will stay afloat. Only a few per year actually sink, but seeing classmates capsizing in the middle of the lake is always fun entertainment. The Regatta originated in 1986 and has remained a staple event on the dorm life calendar. Expect St. Mary's to host many more Regatta's in future years.

Heading over from St. Mary's to St. Joseph's Lake, you will come across Columba Hall. Built in 1844, Columba Hall is where many Holy Cross priests reside once they retire. Despite being located on-campus, it one of a handful of buildings not owned by the University. Nothing too exciting happens at Columba, short of a few rousing card games. Shortly after Columba, you will notice the path that leads around St. Joseph's Lake. It can be argued that St. Mary's is the more popular lake, but St. Joseph's is without question, the more beautiful one.

One of the first things you will notice as you head clockwise around St. Joseph's Lake, is a small path that heads off into the woods. If you take that path, you will find that it leads to a small prayer station, secluded and unknown by many students. While the origins are not known by Irish Legends, it is said to be part of the Stations of the Cross. You will find a crucifix, two kneelers, a few candles, and a statue of Mary nestled in the leaf covered clearing. The area has not been maintained recently, but it still provides a place to get away from the mainstream campus, to a place even quieter than The Grotto.

Heading around the lake path, you will notice a building with a familiar view. Sacred Heart Parish Center is home to one of the most memorable scenes in the movie Rudy. As you stand there in the grass, looking across the lake at the Dome, it might occur to you that this is the very spot where Sean Astin opens Rudy's acceptance letter. Unfortunately the exact bench is no longer in that location, so you won't be able to recreate the scene, but at least you know where it was filmed. Even if you are not a fan of the movie, it is a special place with a breathtaking view of the Dome. Make sure you have your camera. You will recognize the area from afar due to a giant metal crucifix planted in the lawn of the Parish Center. For those that are wondering, Sacred Heart Parish Center was formerly known as St. Joe's Hall. Built in 1920, the building used to be a dormitory. However, today it is used for such things as campus ministry sponsored freshmen retreats.

Next up on the tour is Moreau Seminary. Built in 1958, and owned by the Brothers of Holy Cross, Moreau Seminary is home to the Holy Cross seminarians. The group as a whole is split up between Old College and Moreau Seminary, based on age and educational background. As you continue walking you will notice a strange colored green building. This is Holy Cross House. Built in 1961, it is located right next to Moreau Seminary and houses retired, and ill priests and brothers. Holy Cross House is not affiliated with Notre Dame, however there is a great deal of compassion for the Holy Cross priests and brothers that is extended by the Notre Dame family. If you are lucky, you might catch a retired priest or brother bird watching out in the courtyard. If so, take a seat and you will likely hear some great stories.

Heading down the homestretch, you will come to a small old building, and a sandy beach. This is the St. Joseph Beach and the Notre Dame boathouse. While the beach is open for swimming, most Notre Dame students do not get to experience this, as it is only open from May to August. However, during the summer, St. Joseph's beach is a wonderful place to relax. With a floating sundeck, a clean beach, and boat rentals, there is plenty of family fun to be had. Bring the snorkeling gear, because there are plenty of fish in the lake, although fishing is not permitted. The boathouse, built in 1873, is still used by Notre Dame Sailing to store boats during the winter months. The building also had facilities for crews to train and study in when not sailing. These days it is primarily used for storage.

Finally rounding out the St. Joseph Lake tour, you will come to one of the not so elegant places on-campus. Distinct with a strange odor, there is a drain that heads into the lake from the Notre Dame Power Plant. While it is probably perfectly safe, something about the bubbling water and odors keeps many swimmers away. In this same area, you are likely to find the occasional discarded wooden chariot, dumped in the lake after the Keough Hall Chariot Race, usually by a rival dorm.

Our last stop on this segment of the tour will be Lewis Hall. Walking up the steps from St. Joseph's Lake, you will be located directly behind the Dome. In the shadow of the Dome is Lewis Hall. Built in 1965, Lewis Hall is the largest female dorm on-campus. While the dorm is situated away from other halls, the Lewis girls seem to have little problem attracting the likes of guys, even from the farthest ends of campus. Known as "Quadless but not Godless," the "Chicks" of Lewis Hall have carved their own little niche into campus life. While most women's dorms were at one time male dorms, Lewis is different. In fact, it served as a women's dorm even before women were allowed into the University. That's right, in 1965 Lewis Hall was opened and housed Sisters that wanted to pursue graduate degrees. As with all dorms on-campus, Lewis Hall is known for its signature event. The famous Lewis Hall Crush week, is one particular event that can be pretty fun or pretty awkward, depending on how you are involved. Each year, Lewis residents select a Notre Dame man that they have a crush on. The selected men are published in The Observer, the student newspaper, and recognized as men worthy of a Lewis Crush. They later receive a can of Orange Crush with an invitation to the Lewis Luau, where they will meet their Chick of mystery. The secrets are not very well kept, but the feeling is that most Notre Dame men would come running for a blind date with a Lewis Chick. One thing about Lewis Hall that is not a mystery, is the success that Lewis has had in Intramural sports. A perennial powerhouse on the gridiron, the Lewis Chicks always bring a strong team to every sport they play. While the NFL may not have any Lewis Chick Alumni, that doesn't mean that Lewis does not have their share of famous alumni. Two famous Chicks include NBC news reporter Anne Thompson '79, and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice ‘75MA.

Well that concludes this segment of the Irish Legends Campus Tour. Next time join us for a trip past "Fair Catch Corby," the steps where the famous Band of the Fighting Irish gathers on game day, and historic South Quad. Also, please check the Members' board for visuals to accompany the descriptive tour. Top Stories