The house that Rockne built
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football fans looking for a coveted piece of Irish nostalgia may want to check their local real estate listings.
No, Notre Dame Stadium, often referred to as The House That Rock Built, doesn't have a for sale sign stuck in front of it. But the actual house that Rock built does.
Legendary coach Knute Rockne’s final home, which was commissioned by Rockne himself in South Bend, is on the market, listed at $500,000.
“The house is in absolutely mint condition, and it’s pretty much the same way it was as it was when he passed,” said Jay O’Neil, a broker associate with Encore Sotheby’s International Realty, the Indianapolis real estate firm that is handling the sale
The home, which sits at 1417 Wayne St., was commissioned by Rockne in 1929, two years before he was killed in a plane crash in Kansas. Rockne’s wake was held at the home.
Rockne’s widow, Bonnie, and family resided in the home until her death in 1956. In 1957, the only other family to own the home purchased it from the Rockne estate. Karen Hickey was 6 when, she said, her parents bought the house. When her parents and five siblings first moved in there were only two things left from the Rocknes: a Victrola player and a portrait of Knute.
The Hickey family first met the Rockne family when Knute, his wife and their four children moved to East St. Vincent Street in 1923. Karen Hickey's grandfather, Tom Hickey Sr., was a general contractor living on St. Vincent Street and helped build the Rocknes' first house right next to the Hickey home. That was the start of the families' history together, Karen Hickey said.
The coach often came over and played touch football with Karen Hickey's father and uncles, she said. Her grandfather even became Knute's godfather when the Rockne family became Catholic. The families remained friends, and in the '50s, Karen Hickey said, her parents told the Rocknes they would be interested in buying the house.
Little has changed in the house for the almost 60 years the Hickeys have owned it, Karen Hickey said. The home has the original hardwood floors and bathroom tile, along with most of the original fixtures.
"I don't remember a time when I was living in the home and I didn't marvel at how beautiful it was," Karen Hickey said.
What's important to the family now is finding a buyer who cares about the house's history, she said. Whether to even sell the house was debated for months between her and her siblings, she said. They agreed in the end it was time for someone else to be a part of the home's significance.
“I think we’re going to get a tremendous amount of interest from the alumni of Notre Dame, I really do. It’s the first time the home is being made available,” O’Neil said.
The 4,180-square-foot home includes four bedrooms, two full baths and one partial bath, and sits just a few miles from the ND campus. The English Tudor-style home includes many features of a home built in the 1920s era, including leaded glass windows, a limestone fireplace and wrought iron fixtures and railings. The home is built on a double lot and a tennis court sits on the adjacent lot.
O’Neil grew up a big Notre Dame fan and has a home in the area, so being involved with the sale of Rockne’s home carries a special significance.
“This isn’t the most expensive property that we have," he said, "but it sure does have the history and the uniqueness and the celebrity that goes with it.”
Staff writer Lincoln Wright contributed to this report.