Osborn Engineering Company Records
Scope and Content
The records in this collection document some of the day-to-day details of the planning and construction of Notre Dame Stadium from 1929 to 1930. Although incomplete, the records offer details of a range of the decisions made as the plans for the Stadium were conceived and executed. The records reveal changes made during the construction phase, as well as decisions that were reached about various construction details. The collection does not contain the architectural blue prints or specification books completed for the project nor details of the major phases of construction. It is unclear what portion of Osborn Engineering files regarding the Notre Dame Stadium project are included here, but these records do provide insight into the general construction process and the relationships developed by the client, the main contractor, and the many subcontractors involved over the course of the project.
The collection includes records of the Osborn Engineering Company of Cleveland, Ohio, relating to the planning and constructing of Notre Dame Stadium, a football stadium on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, 1929 to 1930. The documents are primarily construction records including blueprints, specifications, construction and supply bids, cost estimates, contracts, invoices, construction inspection/testing reports, and change orders (as letters and formal change documents). Other records include construction photographs; printed material, ephemera, and correspondence relating to the opening/dedication of the Stadium; and general correspondence.
The primary correspondents are the Osborn Company (carbon copies generally unsigned but sender listed as "secretary"), Father Thomas A. Steiner, CSC (primary agent for Notre Dame and faculty member -- civil engineering), Ransom Clarke (South Bend Agent for Notre Dame?), J. Arthur Haley (Business Manager, Notre Dame Athletic Department), Sollit Construction Company of South Bend (primary contractor for the project), and various vendors and suppliers. These companies include Robert W. Holt Company (engineering consultant who provided inspection and testing reports), Joe Wolfe and Sons (South Bend painters), George J. Hoffman and Company (South Bend, sand and gravel excavating), Edwards Iron Works (South Bend), the Portland Cement Company (Indianapolis), and many others.
The correspondence deals primary with changes in construction plans and decisions on various questions that arose during construction (e.g. appearance of the brick used, paint colors, plaques for the box seats, kind of glass to be used in the press box, width of seating, etc.). Most of the correspondence does not involve Notre Dame directly. The bulk of the correspondence is between Osborn Engineering and the main contractor (Sollit Construction) or other subcontractors.
The exception to this is the correspondence between Osborn Engineering and Ranson D. Clark, who seems to have been the South Bend agent for Notre Dame, although it is unclear exactly whom he worked for (his correspondence lists addresses on Hill Street and later Corby Street in South Bend, but no company affiliation or title). Clark often conveys instructions that appear to have been given to him directly by Notre Dame, usually in the person of Father Thomas A. Steiner, CSC (of the civil engineering faculty). There are also letters to and from Father Steiner and Osborn Engineering. A few other Notre staff appear in the correspondence including J Arthur Haley (Business Manager of Athletics) and Knute Rockne (football coach, see list below), but there are only a small number of letters in this group.
There is one folder of post-construction correspondence, 1930-1956, which deals with repair and maintenance problems and Notre Dame requests for copies of construction photographs and seating diagrams.
Individual Documents of Note:
Final construction contract (May 27, 1929) signed by Charles O'Donnell, CSC (president of Notre Dame) and P. P. Evans of the Osborn Engineering Company.
Letter to Fielding Yost (coach at the University of Michigan) from Osborn Engineering (unsigned carbon), 1929, asking for advice on moving the turf from Cartier Field (the old football stadium at Notre Dame) to the new Notre Dame Stadium. There is no evidence of a reply.
Letter from J. Arthur Haley (Business Manager of Athletics) to Bernard L. Green (Vice President of Osborn Engineering) asking that space allotted each seat be reduced from eighteen inches to seventeen inches, which would add two seats to each row.
List of box seat subscribers.
Football programs from the first two games held in the Stadium, Southern Methodist University (SMU) played on October 4th, 1930 and Navy (dedication game) played October 11, 1930.
Twenty-three construction photographs and three color postcards of the competed stadium.
Correspondence involving Knute Rockne including:
- 1. A 1922 letter from Osborn Engineering (unsigned carbon) to Rockne regarding a newspaper article stating a committee of businessmen are looking into financing for a football stadium at Notre Dame.
- 2. A 1923 letter from Rockne (signed) to P.P. Evans of Osborn Engineering stating that nothing will be done on stadium fund raising until December 1923.
- 3. A 1928 letter from Osborn Engineering (unsigned carbon) to Rockne describing other stadium projects that the company completed. It is interesting to note that an earlier letter from Osborn Engineering to Father Thomas A. Steiner indicates that he and Rockne visited other stadiums including ones at the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan.
- 4. A 1929 letter from Rockne (signed) to Bernard L. Green of Osborn Engineering regarding the number of box seats that should be constructed in the Stadium.
The collection includes the following blueprints (most smaller than the standard size):
- 1. Wall Opening for Standard Vault
- 2. Form Schedule.
- 3. Strut Framing Plan.
- 4. Deck Framing Plan.
- 5. Plans for Box Seat Plaques
- 6. Layout for Arrangement of Box Seats
- 7. Counter Balance Windows (David Lupon and Sons, Philadelphia)
- Creation: ca. 1922-1956 (bulk 1929-1930).
- Osborn Engineering Company (Organization)
Language of Materials
The Osborn Engineering Company was founded in Cleveland on July 1, 1882 by Frank Osborn, formerly chief engineer for Cleveland's King Bridge Company. The company offered a wide range of civil and structural engineering services. Incorporated on May 16, 1900, the firm built a national reputation as a stadium designer. The firm was a pioneer in developing new methods for concrete testing and design standards and built the first concrete sports stadiums which began to replace the old wooden structures in the early years of the Twentieth Century. The firm also constructed the first double deck stadiums (such as Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park) and the second generation of stadiums that were engineered by cantilevering the upper desks to remove view-obstructing columns. Osborn Engineering is still in business today, although stadiums are no longer the company's main pursuit.
A small selection of stadiums designed by Osborn include: Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) in 1909; Polo Ground (New York City) in 1911; Fenway Park (Boston) in 1912; Yankee Stadium (the original stadium, New York City) in 1923; Purdue Stadium (now Ross-Ade Stadium, Purdue University) in 1924; Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor), 1927; Notre Dame Stadium in 1929; Milwaukee County Stadium (Milwaukee), 1950.
Sources: Wikipedia website, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History website, Osborn Engineering website.
1 linear foot
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These records came originally from the Osborn Engineering Company. The documents have been auctioned at least three times, the latest in November 2010. It is presumed, but not documented, that the original seller was Osborn Engineering or an agent of the company.
- Osborn Engineering Company Records
- University of Notre Dame Archives
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note