Moreau Center for the Arts Construction, 1955-56
Naess and Murphy, the architects of O'Laughlin Auditorium and Moreau Hall, were among the prominent architects of Chicago at the time O'Laughlin and Moreau were completed in 1956. Their firm had just finished construction of the 41-story One Prudential Plaza (1952-1955), which was the first skyscraper built after World War II in Chicago, replacing Holabird and Root's Board of Trade (1930) as the tallest building in the city. When completed in 1955, its flat-topped Indiana limestone slab with the company's name in red neon letters became a highly visible addition to the city's skyline. The firm would later design Chicago's O'Hare Airport, which was built in 1959 and finished in 1961.
O'Laughlin Auditorium's 1300 seats are arranged in continental style. The hall is modeled after Bayreuth's renowned opera house. Outside the main entrance to O'Laughlin Auditorium are 14 frescoes painted by the internationally famed Franco-American artist Jean Charlot (1898-1979). The frescoes depict the arts of man, sacred and secular. Another fresco by Charlot, "The Fire of Creation," is at the entrance to the adjacent Moreau Center for the Arts. The fresco murals were the gift of the student body of 1956.
O'Laughlin Auditorium and the Moreau Center for the Arts were built to commemorate the centenary of Saint Mary's College, formerly Saint Mary's Academy, at its current location (1855-1955). G.K. Chesterton's famous saying, "Art is the signature of man," is inscribed on the cornerstone of O'Laughlin Auditorium. Since 1956, the auditorium and Moreau Center for the Arts have seen a continuous parade of artists, musicians, actors, performers, lecturers, politicians, and the bright and famous. Among them has been Helen Hayes, the "First Lady of the American Stage," who set the cornerstone for O'Laughlin Auditorium on November 12, 1955, the year of her Golden Jubilee as an actress.
Since then the NBC Opera Company, Marian Anderson, Judith Anderson and Maurice Evans, the Kronus Quartet, Cicely Tyson, Betty Friedan, and Ronald Reagan, among many others, have appeared on its stage.
O'Laughlin Auditorium and Moreau Center for the Arts have become an important cultural center not only for Saint Mary's College, but for the South Bend, Indiana community as well.