Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Campus and Gardens

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Institution Name: Saint Mary's College
Original/Historic Place Name: Campus and Gardens
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1855original construction
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
1855-present (2006)outdoor space
1855-present (2006)master plan (campus)

"The site of St. Mary's is one of extreme beauty. Magnificent forest trees, rising from the banks of the most beautiful river in the Mississippi Valley, still stand in native grandeur; the music of bright waters and healthful breezes inspire activity and energy, while the quiet seclusion of the locality invites to reflection and study. "
Saint Mary's Academy 26th Annual Catalogue (1880-1881)

"With its 54 acres of landscaped campus along the St. Joseph River, located within 278 acres owned by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary's College enjoys natural and cultivated beauty and the ideal quiet setting for a college. Saint Mary's is also within easy access to the regional airport and the interstate highway system."
Saint Mary's College Bulletin (2001-2003)

The natural setting of the Saint Mary's campus has always been important to the College. Sister Madeleva, the poet-president of the College from 1934 to 1961, considered the campus to be an outdoor classroom, both for scientific learning and aesthetic and humanistic pursuits. She did much to turn the campus into an arboretum of various trees and bushes. Her gardener, the late Joseph Bonadies, and his successor Mark Kubacki have continued a tradition of landscaping, horticulture, and gardening that goes back to the Nineteenth Century.

In the January 1912 issue of the Fine Arts Journal, Saint Mary's College was described as "a paradisal spot in the heart of hundreds of acres of partly wooded highlands and lowlands (where) the far-seeing, nature-loving Sisters of the Holy Cross have established a sanctuary of learning second to none in the New World and equal to any in the Old."

The principal feature of the campus plan is the entrance avenue lined with old sycamores, the subject of a poem by Sister Madeleva, "Old Soldiers":

Look at this avenue. Do you not love it,
This regiment of trees in ranks of fours
Marching abreast, maples and sycamores?

Again, from the Fine Arts Journal: "Entering the open gates, a broad driveway with an avenue of overspreading trees leads to the well-cared-for green lawn fronting the hospitable entrance of the imposing building called Collegiate Hall. Round about as far as the eye can reach are winding walks, sparkling fountains, beds of gay fragrant flowers nodding their heads in welcome to the stranger, while the wooded banks of the lordly river, St. Joseph, lend a darker tone as background to the picture."

The contemporary campus still offers walks and fountains, flowerbeds, and wildness. Today's visitor will find a nature trail and a labyrinth, a rock garden, Lake Marian, and various shrines and statues, principally religiously inspired. Among the shrines and statues are those to the Sacred Heart, Lady of Fatima, Christ the Teacher, the Infant of Prague, St. Fiacre, St. Anthony of Padua, Mary the Queen of Heaven, and Mary the Queen of Peace. The cemetery of the Sisters of the Holy Cross provides a place to reflect on the visionary women who have built and guided the college over the last 160 years.

The beauty of the campus and its singular role in the educational mission of the campus has always been recognized, no less so today when faculty and students are concerned to address ecological and environmental issues within the singularly natural setting of Saint Mary's College.


Creek, Sister Mary Immaculate. A Panorama: 1844-1977, Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Notre Dame, IN: The College, 1977.

McCandless, Marion. Family Portraits, History of the Holy Cross Alumnae Association of Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1879-1949. Notre Dame, IN: Saint Mary's College, 1952.

Wagner, Monica. Benchmarks: Saint Mary's College, How it Grew. Notre Dame, IN: Saint Mary's College, 1990.


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Last update: November 2006