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Alumni react to potential Legends demolition for parking garage

| Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Notre Dame’s earliest years, a private, two-story residence just south of Notre Dame Stadium was transformed into a home for the Brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, then into a faculty club and eventually into a hip hangout for of-age seniors, complete with multiple bars and a billiards table and affectionately dubbed the “Senior Bar.”

Reconstructed in 1982 and then again in 2003, the plot of land that rests in the shadow of Notre Dame Stadium is now home to the boxy, flat restaurant known as Legends of Notre Dame.

In an email sent to the student body from the Office of the Executive Vice President on Feb. 22, John Affleck-Graves announced the Parking Committee’s plan to explore the feasibility of a parking garage to “be built on the site where Legends restaurant is currently located.” While there are no official plans to close Legends, the email contained a survey to generate student and faculty feedback.

While the space where Legends sits has changed over the last century, the traditions and memories of the original Senior Bar has carried on in the minds of the alumni who knew it best.

“To an alumni over 50 or 55, I’m not sure [demolishing] Legends would get much more than a shrug,” Terry Corrigan, a 1979 grad who was a bartender at the site of the original Senior Bar his senior year, said. “There’s no memory attached to [Legends]. There’s a certain bad taste in your mouth.”

But for those who graduated before its reconstruction in 1982 and were over 21, the Senior Bar was a key social variable during one’s time at Notre Dame, Corrigan said. 

Fully managed by senior business students and open Thursday through Saturday nights, Senior Bar was located at a convenient spot on the edge of campus.

“It felt like wherever you were going, on your way to campus or going off campus, you could stop by,” he said. “It was a really nice bit of community, like our local pub.”

Bryan Gruley, a 1979 grad and a regular at the bar, particularly loved going to Senior Bar on football weekends, he said.

“It was great, particularly after the game, to go upstairs, get a pitcher and sit in a windowsill and watch the scene,” he said.

Outside the house to the west on the large plot of land that is now home to various academic buildings, seniors grilled hot dogs and burgers all day while the men from Dillon Hall set up their speakers and blasted music from Bruce Springsteen, Gruley said.

But when the original house was torn down to make way for a more spacious and safe place, Corrigan said it lost all of its character.

“Without being overly melodramatic, I would say there was universal condemnation of the decision to tear down the old house,” Corrigan said.

In its place stood what is now Legends, though it went under further reconstruction in 2003.

“I would be devastated [if it closed],” Brenda Low, who has been working at Legends for 13 years, said.

Low first found out about the University’s plans from the February email. She hasn’t heard anything since, she said, but she did complete the survey, which was mainly focused on the demand for parking and the usage of the potential parking garage.

“But if I didn’t have a job, why would I park there?” Low said.

While the email stated that the University would help Legends employees find another job in the result of a closure, they haven’t reached out yet, Low said.

“It would be really unfortunate not only to get rid of Legends, but to replace it with a parking garage,” junior Emily Salerno said. “Legends is a favorite that many students have great memories at, and a parking lot in its place would really be a loss of tradition.”

Even still, Legends remains a sore subject for the select alumni who knew it as Senior Bar.

“Legends to me is this low-slung, brick building that has absolutely no character to it,” Chuck Huttinger, a 1977 grad who spent a lot of time at Senior Bar as the general manager his senior year, said. “Given all the character that we have at Notre Dame, it seemed kind of strange to me that they replaced the old house with this building that was nothing special really.”

For Corrigan, Legends is not much more than a meet-up spot on Football Saturdays or a place to seek refuge from nasty weather, he said.

“For someone who only passes by four to five times in the autumn, it’s a great place to anchor someone and find them,” Corrigan said. “But actually going in it and caring about it being taken down? Not the slightest paying of regret or remorse.”

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About Teagan Dillon

Teagan is an accounting major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. An avid Detroit sports fan, Teagan was born and raised just outside of the city. She enjoys cooking, running and playing with her dog Nala, a mildly overweight pit bull with a heart of gold.

Contact Teagan