The steel-reinforced concrete walls of St. Joseph’s Hall blend in well with the many other buildings on campus today. It’s no wonder—the building’s construction a century ago in 1911 ushered in the Mission Revival architectural style that pervades Santa Clara University today.
When it was built, St. Joseph’s was a modern break from tradition. “Before that, there were a lot of Victorian-style buildings from the 19th century, some wooden, some brick and mortar,” notes Gerald McKevitt, S.J., professor of history. “There was a real desire to replace those and to architecturally transform the place into a modern, 20th-century campus,” McKevitt wrote The University of Santa Clara, A History, 1851–1977 and co-authored Serving the Intellect, Touching the Heart: A Portrait of Santa Clara University, 1851–2001 with George F. Giacomini Jr., associate professor of history, emeritus.
“St. Joseph’s is important because it sets the style for the whole campus. All of the other buildings attempt, in one way or another, to echo that Mission style. Hence the beige paint and the tiles,” McKevitt says. It ushered in not just an architectural modernization, he adds, but a curricular modernization as well, since the college became a university around the same time.
Originally an administrative building and Jesuit faculty residence, the facility reportedly cost $105,000 to construct. Over the years, inner facelifts have helped it morph to meet the ever-changing needs of the University,” Giacomini says. The building housed the library until Varsi was built in the ’30s. Administration moved to Walsh Hall in the ’50s, and Orradre became the next home of the library in thr '60s.
“St. Joe’s remained the Jesuit residence until 1975 when the Jesuits moved to Nobili and St. Joseph’s was remodeled interiorly to become the home for the English department and the communication department, which was brand new. The big room that had been the recreation room for the Jesuits and previous to that, the library, became the television studios. The two-story windows are blacked over and it became a box for television production, which was in its infancy at Santa Clara,” Giacomini explains.
But even as departments moved in and out and the interior assumed different looks and functions, distinct elements from a hundred years ago remained. The cloister sign hanging in one of the side stairways. The grand marble steps. The stained glass windows looking out to the Mission Gardens.
Now home to several departments, offices, and programs (including the English department, Ethnic Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, the Faculty Development Program, the LEAD Scholars Program, the Office of Fellowships, the Office of Research Initiatives, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, the Pre-Law Program, Sponsored Projects, the University Honors Program, and the Writing Program), the 100-year-old St. Joseph’s Hall has remained a well-used building into the 21st century.
“St. Joseph’s has certainly served its purposes well over the last century,” Giacomini says. “We are rather good at recycling buildings.”