Here is the history of this historic
building from Damaine Vonada's wonderful guide book Notre Dame The
Official Campus Guide (available in the "Books" section)
From The Notre Dame Campus Guide:
Located directly across the courtyard from Howard Hall, Lyons Hall
is justifiably famous for its lovely entrance arch, one of the most
elegant and attractive architectural features found at Notre Dame. The
arch frames what is arguably the prettiest view of St. Mary's Lake on
campus, but Kervick had more than that single striking vista in mind
when he designed Lyons Hall. Prior to South Quad, Notre Dame's
development had focused primarily on the Main Building, largely
ignoring the natural beauty of St. Mary's and St. Joseph's lakes.
Kervick intended for the South Quad in general and Lyons Hall in
particular to correct that oversight by directing the campus toward
the lakes. In addition, he purposely positioned the Lyons arch opening
so that its lake view could also be enjoyed from a variety of places
in the quad.
snapshot from 1940, with notations...
Like the Howard Hall arch, the Lyons arch was also embellished with
bas-reliefs and a patron saint statue. In the niche on the courtyard
(east) side of its arch stands a likeness of St. Joseph. It was placed
there because the hall is named after Joseph Lyons, who arrived at
Notre Dame as an orphan and eventually became one of its most
dedicated professors. Trained at first as a shoemaker in the Manual
Labor School, Lyons began to take classes and managed not only to earn
a degree but also graduate with honors in 1862. He joined Notre Dame's
faculty as an English instructor and moved into a modest room in the
Main Building. There he joined the ranks of Notre Dame's bachelor
dons, an avuncular cadre of professors who devoted themselves to
mentoring their students. In 1869 Lyons wrote the university's silver
anniversary history, and ten vears later, when the Main Building
burned, it was Lvons who went to Canada to give Father Sorin the
heart-breaking details of the disaster. Lyons died in 1888 and was
laid to rest in the Community Cemetery, the first layman ever accorded
the honor of being buried among the Holy Cross priests and brothers
whose life work had also been Notre Dame.
Perhaps Kervick had Joseph Lyons's story in mind when Lyons Hall was
on the drawing board, for he incorporated quarters for lay professors
into the dormitories design. Most were in the wing east of the arch,
but he did locate a few of the faculty rooms over the arch itself.
Kervick was obviously satisfied with the fruits of his labor, since he
himself moved into Lyons Hall and lived there for many years. A pious
man, Kervick was also responsible for the beautiful Lyons chapel, a
subterranean, medieval-like sanctum reached by a winding staircase.
Lyons was once an honors hall for Notre Dame's most scholarly
students, but it got a totally new identity in 1974, when it became
one of the first halls changed from a men's to a women's dormitory.
The ladies of Lyons, a.k.a. Lyonites, have established themselves as
some of the best athletes on campus by winning interhall championships
in football and soccer. Every year, they also sponsor a charity
volleyball tournament and fun run. In the spring, Lyonites can be
spotted sunbathing on "Lyons Beach," the land that descends
from the rear of the dorm to St. Mary's Lake. They use that same slope
for sledding during long winter nights. As for the Lyons arch, even
after dark, its lights-shimmering-on-the lake view is enchanting. This
makes the arch a favorite place for residents to say goodnight to
their dates, thus serving a romantic purpose that even Kervick with
his painstaking plan could never have anticipated.