New Corby Hall to resemble old building in two-year construction project
Thomas Murphy | Monday, September 10, 2018
This summer marked the end of an era at Notre Dame as one of the University’s oldest buildings, Corby Hall, was demolished to make way for a new Corby Hall in its place. The construction is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2020.
The original Corby Hall was built around 1895 as a student residence hall and was converted in the 1930s to house the priests and brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross — its current-day function. Construction is being funded by Notre Dame alumni Jay and Mary Flaherty’s (’79) $50 million gift to the University, $20 million of which is being allocated towards the new building, the South Bend Tribune reported in May.
Religious superior of Corby Hall and Notre Dame art professor Fr. Austin Collins said Corby housed 28 Holy Cross priests and brothers prior to its demolition and served as the center of the Congregation’s on-campus community.
“[For] the Holy Cross brothers and priests at Notre Dame, [Corby was] the place where they came to pray and to eat and to relax, to chill out,” he said. “It was their home.”
The residence is named after Fr. William Corby, the third and sixth president of Notre Dame and chaplain to the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.
A statue of Fr. Corby has traditionally stood outside of Corby Hall. Known by students as “Fair Catch Corby,” the statue is a replica of another statue that stands in the Gettysburg battlefield, Collins said.
“The students actually started to raise the money for the Corby statue to have a duplicate of the one at Gettysburg, and the young development department at that time took that project over and finished the fundraising so that we could have the statue,” Collins said. “We moved [the statue] just across the street. We didn’t want to put it in storage, we wanted Corby to be out there so all can see him.”
Corby Hall was home to several famed figures in Notre Dame‘s history including former Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne and University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who lived in the building for 58 years, Collins said.
Despite the building’s long history and tradition, Collins said the Congregation ultimately decided the building was in such poor condition that there was no choice but to tear it down and rebuild.
“We spent some serious time — six months — meeting with architects [and] with community members to see if we could renovate the old building and put an addition on,” he said. “It ended up being in bad stewardship … because of the shape the building was in.”
The need to renovate Corby was never in question, Collins said, due to the structure’s outdated technology and lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a 1990 law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Still, the residents of Corby Hall found it difficult to watch their long-time home be torn down.
“There’s close to 70 priests who associate themselves with Corby Hall at the University of Notre Dame … and there’s everything from 95 to 25 [year olds who live there] … so there’s a lot of people,” he said. ”It’s a cross-generational community. It was difficult to see [Corby] come down [and] to move out of it … but I think everyone was very responsible in knowing that it was in bad shape. It was needed a lot. In some areas [the building] was pretty primitive.”
Collins said the original structure’s poor condition was made especially obvious as workers began digging out the foundation.
“We discovered the building was in much worse shape than we realized once we started getting into the issues of renovation,” he said. “I think what really shocked me was the foundation was really rubble. The brothers and the workers that were hired just brought stones from the field, rubble and concreted it together. The foundation was 4-feet wide all around that building.”
One of old Corby’s most beloved features was the building’s mar brick exterior, a low-fired brick made from clay found at the bottom of St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes, Collins said. Several buildings in Corby’s vicinity also use the distinct yellow brick, including the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Administration Building and Sorin College.
Salvaging and reusing this famous brick was an important consideration in the Corby reconstruction project, Collins said.
“[The mar brick is] going to be used for [renovating] older buildings at Notre Dame, and it’s also going to [be given to] donors and friends of the University that have wanted the brick,” he said. “Some of the residents who have lived there a long time asked for brick too. A lot of brick was saved, but the brick was in bad shape; that’s one of the reasons why the building has been torn down.”
The new Corby structure will not have an original mar brick exterior, Collins said. Instead, a modern brick will be used.
“The new brick … is very similar in look but is much stronger, higher fired, and is used in the new architecture building,” Collins said. “We took it and put it next to Sorin and put it next to the Basilica and you can’t tell the difference. It’s much better and will last longer.”
Mike Daly, senior director of project management for Notre Dame’s facilities design and operations, said the new brick’s close resemblance to the mar brick is one of many efforts to help the new Corby blend in with Notre Dame’s historic quarter of campus.
“While the building will be new, our goal is that it will feel as if it has always been there for generations,” Daly said in an email. “The massing of the new Corby Hall will have a similar look and feel to the old Corby Hall. The exterior materials will also have a similar appearance from the color of the brick to the use of slate on the roof. New Corby will also have a new front porch that will also extend to the second floor.”
As with any construction on the Notre Dame campus, the Corby reconstruction has generated many reactions from the alumni community, Collins said.
“We’re trying to be very transparent,” Collins said. “Everyone cares about what goes at Notre Dame — the landscape, the structures that go up — so everyone should care about this. [Corby] is in the old French quarter of campus, so it has to fit in. People should be concerned and I’m glad they’re concerned.”
Daly said the new Corby Hall is an opportunity to contribute to the beauty of Notre Dame’s campus and the welfare of the Congregation for years to come.
“It is very exciting for us to be involved in a project that is in this historic and sacred core of campus and will have such a profound and positive impact for the Congregation,” Daly said. “We are most excited for the opportunity to create a new home for the Congregation that will serve their needs for the next 100 plus years.”