A gift of $15 million toward the project will come from South Bend businesswoman and philanthropist Ernestine Raclin, her family and the Carmichael Foundation.
Ernestine Raclin said Tuesday she is thrilled to be able to help with the project, because of the inn’s historic connection to her family. “I love South Bend, and I love Notre Dame. This combination is perfect,” she said.
When completed, the hotel will trade its post-World War II exterior architecture for a collegiate Gothic look that harmonizes with the nearby Notre Dame Law School and other campus buildings, John Affleck-Graves, the university’s executive vice president, said.
The upgrades will include:
The south wing will be demolished and an entire new wing of rooms will replace it.
An increase from 92 guest rooms to approximately 138 rooms, with the average room size growing from 240 square feet to 360 square feet. Some rooms will be suites with parlors.
A 300-seat ballroom to be constructed on the north end of the building, and three private dining rooms will be located along an expansion on the east front of the building.
A covered driveway at the lobby entrance.
Relocation of Leahy’s Pub to a more prominent location within a much larger casual dining facility.
Sorin’s Restaurant will remain and is not included in the renovation.
The rear courtyard will be redesigned.
The work is expected to begin in late summer 2012, with most of the construction completed by fall 2013. The inn may be closed for some part of the construction period.
The project will be designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz, an international architecture firm based in Chicago.
The university in recent years had started looking at ways to modernize and improve its hotel service. There was some discussion of building a new hotel and conference center elsewhere on campus.
“This opportunity presented itself,” Lou Nanni, Notre Dame’s vice president for university relations, said of this latest Raclin family gift.
A Notre Dame trustee emerita, Ernestine Raclin said she and Notre Dame’s leaders couldn’t get enthused about the idea of a new hotel at a different site. “This is exactly what my parents would have wanted,” she said of the renovation and expansion plan.
Born on a farm in Marshall County in 1882, Ernest Morris was orphaned as a child. He later attended and graduated from Valparaiso University. A Presbyterian with little money, Morris appealed in 1905 to the Rev. John W. Cavanaugh, then Notre Dame’s president, for assistance to attend law school. He received a $100 loan and earned his law degree.
After graduation, he went on to a career in law and finance, founding in 1917 what became Associates Investment Corp. of America.
Planning for the Morris Inn began under the administration of the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, Notre Dame’s president from 1946 to 1952. It opened in 1952, the year the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh began his 35-year tenure as Notre Dame’s president.
“Ernestine’s gift ensures that the inn will continue to be a shining tribute to Ernie and Ella Morris’ loyalty and generosity to Notre Dame,” Hesburgh, 94, said Tuesday in a written statement.
Upon making his gift, Ernest Raclin said he envisioned the future inn as Notre Dame’s “window on the world.” He died in 1951, before the hotel was completed.
The couple considered their gift a gesture of appreciation for the education Ernest Morris had received at Notre Dame. He served as a member and chair of the university’s associate board of lay trustees and played a prominent role in fundraising campaigns for the university.
Both Ernestine Raclin and her late husband, O.C. “Mike” Carmichael Jr., also chaired Notre Dame capital campaigns.
Ernestine Raclin said she attends dinners or events at the hotel about once a week, and always looks forward to her visits there. “It has a homey feel,” she said, a characteristic she expects the expanded facility will retain.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: