Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where's There: Sorin Hall

John Bellairs describes this Notre Dame dormitory as "South Bend's answer to the House of Usher" with one room being “at least 15 feet high, its exact height being a mystery because of the ever-present cloud formations, and...decorated to resemble a cross between a Victorian tenement and a Pompeian attic [the beginning: a little too much about the author; Oct. 3, 1958].

The 15-foot-high room Bellairs was describing was one of Sorin Hall's four turret rooms, specifically room 119 where he lived during his junior year (1957-58). For the 1958-59 school year Sorin was reclassified from a junior to a senior hall and Bellairs triumphantly held on to his highly treasured room - "perfect for the bull sessions that are such an indispensable feature of college life," says college friend Alfred Myers. Another student, Robert Sedlack, remembers that Bellairs’ high-ceiling room "always seemed busy with people stopping in and out to chat." There were three or four rooms between the front door and the turret room where Bellairs lived; these rooms appear to have been combined to create a student lounge following renovations during the 1980s.

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 features 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."

Sorin Hall was built in 1888 as the first dormitory on the University of Notre Dame campus and is named in honor of Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who founded the University. It is located south of the Sacred Heart Basilica and Main Building. During the 1960s, residents chose to briefly break away from the university and renamed the building "Sorin College."

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

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