Brownson Hall Is History

Author: Jack Lyons

The second-oldest building on campus, after Old College, was Brownson Hall. It is no more.

Situated between the Main Building and Lewis Hall, the two-story structure built with the distinctive, yellow “Notre Dame brick” was torn down in January. Additional space for the Institute for Educational Initiatives in a building to be known as Remick Family Hall, designed in a French architectural style similar to Brownson's, will occupy the space.

Built around 1855, Brownson Hall had many uses across its history, including service as a convent and the University kitchens. Most recently it housed the Office of Sustainability, the Haiti Program and other campus initiatives.

The University’s decision to reconstruct the building inspired a “requiem” that appeared in The Observer and the South Bend Tribune from Paulette G. Curtis, a former director of the AnBryce Scholars Initiative in the Office of Pre-College Programs, which were based in Brownson Hall. Curtis lamented the loss of a piece of Notre Dame history that dates back to the era of founding president Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC.

“Years ago, a carpenter working in Brownson told me that Sorin probably laid the foundation of sections of the building himself,” Curtis writes. “What an amazing thing. And what a shame, if true, that his handiwork — literally the work he designed with his own hands — will soon be a thing of the past.”

Senior University photographer Matt Cashore ’94 documented Brownson Hall inside and out after the news of its planned replacement in May and during the winter demolition: 


Ivy blooms on the south side of Brownson Hall in May 2019. The archway leads to a central courtyard that will remain after the construction of Remick Family Hall. 



Recent occupants of Brownson Hall included the Office of Sustainability.



As these interior scenes show, historic Brownson Hall had seen better days.




Crews completed the demolition of Brownson Hall in January under the glint of the Golden Dome.



A rendering of Remick Family Hall, which will open in 2021. The building will house the Institute for Educational Initiatives, which includes the Alliance for Catholic Education.

Jack Lyons, a junior studying theology and journalism, is an intern for this magazine.