Brother Charles Borromeo Harding, C.S.C. (1838-1922)
Patrick Harding was born in Ireland and entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1862. A carpenter’s son, he became a self-taught institutional builder and construction manager involved in almost every new addition to Notre Dame’s physical plant between 1868 and 1911. St. Edward’s Hall, Corby Hall, Dujarié Hall (now Carroll Hall), the Institute of Technology (now Crowley Hall of Music), the current Sacred Heart Basilica, and the boat house are all his extent designs. He also built two wings of Sorin Hall, the Fieldhouse Gymnasium (no longer on the campus), the Manual Labor School, the Ave Maria Offices, the Community House (now Columba Hall), the Portiuncula Chapel (no longer on campus), and the first post office. In 1879 he also served as the supervising architect of the Main Building. Finally, in the 1880’s he oversaw the building of the dome and a spire each going up simultaneously. There are no records that indicate that he had taken any courses in construction nor architectural renderings. Tradition has it that Brother Charles used unsawn tree trunks from the Michigan hardwood forests as the inner structural supports around which he fashioned the piers that support Sacred Heart’s vaulted roof. (Adapted from Schlereth, Thomas J. “A Spire of Faith: The University of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Church,” 1991)
The minutes from the meetings of the Notre Dame Council of Administration for 1897-1900 illustrate how greatly Brother Charles’ services were in demand and how extensive his contributions to the growth of Notre Dame:
22 January 1897: Brother Charles Borromeo is authorized to build the two wings at Sorin Hall at an estimate of $12,000.
26 March 1897: Brother Charles is requested to make a plan and an estimate to enlarge the gymnasium.
9 April 1897: Brother Charles is directed to make plans and specifications for the new Manual Labor School to be ready for September.
18 March 1898: The Portiuncula Chapel is to be taken down and the bricks used for the new gymnasium.
22 September 1899: Brother Charles was appointed to draw the plans for the new Community House. Stones and bricks are to be ordered and the construction begun at once.
23 March 1900: It was directed to erect one more wing to the new Community House at Mount St. Vincent.
His competence extended beyond Notre Dame to the University of Portland where he worked from 1911-1922 and built the sisters’ convent. Because of his age, he was sent back to Notre Dame, but had to stop in Salt Lake City and seek assistance from the Sisters’ hospital where he died. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. In 1983 archivist Brother Edward Sniatecki wrote, “Brother Charles Borromeo was always quiet and retired in manner: a genuine, gentle and courageous religious. A man of deep faith and sincere piety which was never showy. He loved the rule and practiced it with fidelity.” The Columbiad of the University of Portland carried the following obituary notice in October, 1922:
Once more I missed Him on the accustomed hill,
Along the heath and near his favorite tree;
Another came, nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.