Brother Peter Fitzpatrick (1807-1881)

The Engineer

John Fitzpatrick joined Holy Cross when he was 45 years old. He was born in Ireland and settled in Goshen, Indiana where he became a very prominent and successful business man.  When his entire family died—there is no indication of what happened—he disposed of his business and entered the Brothers of Holy Cross.  Brother Peter was a master of many arts: a merchant in his younger days; a gardener who laid out the quadrangle in front of the main building; an architect; a teacher of civil engineering and astronomy at Notre Dame; and an author of a series of articles on the stars and the planets that ran in newspapers through the nation. 

Brother Peter persuaded the university administration to remove the Manual Labor School to another site so he could plate out a formal garden in front of the administration building and the church.  The Scholastic reported in 1868 that “Brother Peter could be seen daily by his transit, calling out his orders to the men, who all believed in his good taste, and seemed very anxious to execute his directions as if their very happiness depended on making that little garden the ‘dearest spot on earth.’” Brother Peter and his surveying class laid out this garden in an attempt to transplant a bit of the French Renaissance tradition to northern Indiana.

Archival records detail the variety and extent of the activities, and the success that came with them, that were Brother Peter’s over 25 years at Notre Dame.  He was the postmaster and the storekeeper selling books to students and community members.  He laid out the avenues with mathematical precision that would wind through the newly constructed park.  He designed many plans for new buildings on the campus and for St. Joseph Church in South Bend.  He also designed and built many vertical sun-dials that where placed around Notre Dame’s campus. One of the eleven he built stood for many years in front of the science hall at St. Mary’s and in 1955 was considered the oldest piece of scientific equipment at the college.  He was also the guest master who led many tours through his marvelous gardens. By December of 1880, Brother Peter was dangerously ill and died in January of 1881.  The South Bend Tribune wrote about him: “There are only a few people who have visited Notre Dame within the past quarter century that had not seen the cheerful face of the venerable Brother Peter, who took such pleasure in chaperoning visitors.  He was a great favorite, not only with the faculty and students at the university, but also with those who frequently visited Notre Dame.  No one knew better how to conduct visitors about the extensive grounds and buildings, and his suave manners charmed everyone, while his earnest interest in the affairs of Notre Dame impressed all.”

5 thoughts on “

  1. How I enjoy reading your “Voice of Moreau” stories. You have a great variety and such a way with words. Thank you for keeping our heritage alive!

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