The growing student population in the 1920s created demand for a new dining hall, a place where the entire student body could gather in one place on campus. The result was the South Dining Hall in the space formerly occupied by the Notre Dame Farms on South Quad. Planning for a new facility began around 1925 after the fire of the horse stables.
South Dining Hall was completed in 1927 and soon became an important part of student life at Notre Dame. Previously, students would eat in the refectory in Main Building, in the Badin Hall cafeteria, or at off-campus establishments. The new dining hall would be a place for students to bond in fraternity and a place for guests of the University to dine. In addition to the two wings, there was a cafeteria in the center (the old Oak Room, which was removed during the renovation in the late 1990s), and a faculty dining lounge on the second floor.
In 1928 The Hotel Monthly wrote an incredibly detailed report on the new dining hall at Notre Dame. The page above talks about the methodical lunch hour, with students taking their cues from flashing lights and ringing bells. Student waiters served the students, who were allowed seconds and thirds, if they desired, something that was virtually unheard of at other institutions.
Notre Dame has long used students workers to help with the many tasks in the dining hall to earn money for tuition and room and board. In the 1930s, football players also worked in the dining hall.
Years ago, students were assigned seats. Today, students sit where they please, but as part of human nature, they tend to gravitate to their usual tables. You can often hear students give their friends directions as to where they’ll be sitting once they get through the chaos of the food stations. For instance, “right/right” means the West Hall on the northern end.
According to this 1940 pass, theft of dining hall items could result in suspension or dismissal from the University:
Below was a typical weekly menu for the dining hall around the time it opened in 1927 along with statistics of the daily usages of common items.
“History, Tradition, and the New Dining Hall,” Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927
“The New Dining Hall, Architecturally,” by Professor Francis Kervick, Notre Dame Alumnus, November 1927
PNDP 10-So-02: “Impressions of University of Notre Dame Dining Halls,” by John Willy, The Hotel Monthly, 1928