St. John's College
1160 Camino De Cruz Blanca
In 1784, the state of Maryland chartered a college, which was named St. John's, most likely in honor of St. John the Evangelist, although the college was and is free of religious affiliation. By 1960 the Annapolis campus, with a capacity for 300 students on its 35-acre campus, had grown to 250 students and soon would be filled. Rather than expanding the Annapolis enrollment and thereby compromising the educational integrity of that ideally sized community, the president wanted to create another campus. Forty communities made offers of potential sites, with finalists represented by three California locales and Santa Fe, New Mexico. When Santa Fe was chosen, Robert McKinney included an editorial in The New Mexican that reflected the community’s enthusiasm: “We could base this editorial on the honor bestowed upon Santa Fe by its selection from among other excellent sites. It was an honor. We could base it upon the economic boon the college will mean for our town. A boon it will be.”

John Gaw Meem donated the land for the campus and the buildings were designed by John Gaw Meem’s successor firm, Holien and Buckley with Meem as an advisor and consultant. Construction began on early 1963 and the college opened in the fall of 1964.

When the Santa Fe campus opened in October 1964, it included four buildings: a student center, a laboratory building, a classroom building, and a grouping of dormitories. Architect and St. John’s College Board member John Gaw Meem described the campus in a college brochure:

“The new buildings have been designed in a modified ‘Territorial,’ a regional style easily adapted for contemporary use. Their flat-roofed masses will recall their aboriginal American origin; the balconies, portales and patios hearken back to Spain; and the stuccoed walls and brick cornices recall the period when New Mexico was a territory rather than a state. … However, these buildings will reflect still another phase in the development of the style for they will be completely contemporary in meeting the standards of living and scientific requirements demanded of a modern, advanced educational institution like St. John’s College.”

It was once again through Meem that the college was able to retain Alexander Girard, a prolific designer perhaps best known for his work with Herman Miller, to serve as the campus’s interior designer. His work was described as: “Simplicity of design was the keynote. The effects achieved in the student center were most pleasing. Square bricks were used to advantage in certain walls and simple vertical paneling in others. Chandeliers were imaginatively designed for the dining hall. Most of the furniture, executive and student desks, dining room and coffee shop tables, and common room furniture, were designed by Girard and constructed locally. Use of laminated wood block tops throughout resulted in significant economies and produced a harmony of appearance.... Walls were painted white, except for bright colors here and there. On the first floor of the student center a door, a fire extinguisher, and a register were hidden by the way the wall was painted into sections, each part filled by some appropriate educational symbol, such as the Mendelian inheritance formula, Shakespeare’s signature, Einstein’s famous formula, an Egyptian eye, and the like. Paneled doors were painted in bright colors so that they added life to the interiors.”

Illustration credits from left to right: Original Campus Construction, 1964; The Master Plan, 1963; John Gaw Meem and Faculty Committee, 1961 and Dedication Ceremony, 1964.