James Seidler ’02 | July 24, 2020
South Bend is a river town. The city’s very name derives from the wending ways of the St. Joseph River. People have long congregated along its waters, with native inhabitants fishing its depths, fur traders building cabins near its banks, and the city’s nascent industry being powered by the St. Joe’s flow.
Notre Dame’s lakes are famous. Saint Mary’s Lake and Saint Joseph’s Lake are built into the foundations of the University, their mud yielding the bricks that were shaped into some of campus’ most venerable structures. Students jog their shores. They paddle across in makeshift boats. And if they kneel in prayer at the Grotto, they will likely hear the honking of rowdy geese at the landing, but they won’t hear a trickle from the St. Joseph River.
Like town and campus for much of our history, the lakes and the river are linked but distinct. Indeed, the river can serve as a sort of border, carving out some distance between the University and the unruly city adjacent. Even as Notre Dame’s reach expands, growing into the shops and town houses of Eddy Street Commons or the wraparound porches and spacious lots of Notre Dame Avenue, the University hasn’t shown much appetite for crossing that natural boundary.
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