Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


McDonough and Mercy Halls

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Institution Name: Saint Joseph College
Original/Historic Place Name: Administration and Science Building; Residence Hall
Location on Campus: 1678 Asylum Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1935-1936original construction; April 1935 - September 1936 (McDonough Hall); June 1935 - September 1936 (Mercy Hall) Maginnis & Walsh
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Beaux-Arts classicism
Style(s) of minority of buildings: not applicable
Building group type: Quadrangle
Relationship to landscape:
As W. B. M[arquis] noted in a letter to the Rev. Joseph M. Griffin on January 22, 1935, before construction began, "The formal Georgian style of architecture which [was] adopted for the College buildings and the rather large scale of the first two buidlings designed [McDonough and Mercy Halls] furnish the key to the general style and scale for the ground plan for the entire group." Records of the Olmsted Brothers, Ser. B, MS 20, 112.9, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Ideas associated with building group:
These Beaux-Arts-inspired buildings were constructed to establish a dignified, stately, yet contemplative place for young women to study in the 1930s. Subsequent buildings on campus have been constructed with this historic core in mind.
April 1936-present (2007)library (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)gymnasium (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)faculty offices (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)classrooms (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)auditorium (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)administration (McDonough Hall)
April 1936-present (2007)academic department building (McDonough Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)president's house (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)faculty offices (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)facility management building (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)dining hall (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)residence hall (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)chapel (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)admissions office (Mercy Hall)
September 1936- present (2007)administration (Mercy Hall)

Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

McDonough Hall and Mercy Hall form the historic core of the campus, forming the central quadrangle of Saint Joseph College. The institution's first buildings, they set the pace and architectural tone for the college with their formidable size, impressive solidity, refined classical design, and flexible utility. They have each served, and they continue to serve, many functions for the campus community. McDonough currently holds classrooms, a nursing clinical practice room, laboratories for chemistry, biology, nutrition and dietetics, and physics. It even houses a riffle tank, which simulates marine life, at the Freshwater Institute.

With its striking gold dome, McDonough Hall is the signature building on campus and is often the first building visitors see. Its interior plan and orientation provide clearly related, welcoming spaces. The first floor provides for various administrative offices (academic advisement, the registrar, undergraduate and graduate academic affairs, and the mail room for faculty and staff). The lower level offers a surprising contrast from its earlier use as a bookstore and gymnasium, spaces that were renovated in the 1990s into the Information Technology Network Center and an environmental science laboratory and classroom.

Mercy Hall, likewise, was used in many ways. Once the site of the college dining hall, chapel, and student residences, it is still used for many purposes but in a more contemporary fashion. The first floor houses administrative offices for the president and admissions, and also the Crystal Room, a stately room for college receptions that once served as the dining room. The second floor contains space for academic resources, student financial services, institutional advancement, an apartment generally used for meetings, and faculty offices. The third floor continues to serve as a residence hall of single rooms. In recent years, Mercy Hall has been repainted to accentuate its ornate interior, recarpeted due to its high volume of foot traffic, and restyled to make the admissions area more open and hospitable. During times of building construction elsewhere on campus, the building has also served as swing space in the basement, for displaced departments and faculty to have a temporary home.

Taken together, these two buildings frame the central space on campus from which other buildings and arrangements of buildings have taken their cue. This historic quadrangle serves as the focal point for much of the campus community.

I. Bibliographic sources:

None specified.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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