Backstory and Context
Hall is the oldest structures built by the University. Over the decades, it has
housed Marquette's Liberal Arts, Economics and Journalism departments as well
as a chapel, living quarters for members of the Society of Jesus, and a
library. The chapel housed religious relics of significance to the Jesuit
order—relics associated with figures such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter of
Canisius, St. Aloysius, and more. (Now, the relics are housed at the Jesuit
community chapel inside the Jesuit residence.) Although located adjacent to Church
of the Gesu, a student chapel was considered important to have, since the Gesu
was a diocesan, — not a University chapel. However, a bridge was built
to connect the two buildings. It is worth noting that at this time, the
College—not yet a full University—required students to attend religious
exercises. The architect combined Gothic and Victorian styles and included
stained glass from Germany. Primarily religious in nature, they heavily
featured Jesuit Saints, especially those whose relics the Jesuits owned.
Currently, the stained-glass windows are in storage in Memorial Library.
multi-purposed facility was made possible by its namesake, Robert Johnston, who
was president of the Robert Johnston Company, which specialized in cookies,
biscuits, and chocolate. Johnston died shortly before the building could be
Hall has had different purposes throughout the decades and has been a witness
to the dynamic changes on campus and in America. One of the first buildings in
Milwaukee to have air conditioning, and the first to be constructed of
concrete, almost every department on campus has used its classrooms at one time
or another. In 1973,
the Jesuits residing in the Hall left and the Chapel was removed. As the
University grew, the building came to be home to just the Journalism and
Communication departments. Renovations undertaken in the early 1970s
implemented technology and infrastructure to allow for studies in television
and radio broadcasting.
Marquette has prioritized maintenance of the facility—while also accommodating renovations. The State Historical Society recognized Marquette’s efforts in preserving Johnston Hall with a Historic Preservation Award in 1986. Today, Johnston Hall still serves the University as the home for the Diedrich College of Communication and Journalism.
Annemarie Sawkins, “The Old University Chapel at Marquette University and the Legacy of Its Stained Glass Windows” The Stained Glass Quarterly. Pages 108-110.
Thomas J. Milwaukee's Jesuit University: Marquette, 1881-1981. Marquette University Press, 2007.
Register of Historic Places Newsletter. “Wisconsin’s 1986 Historic Preservation
Awards presented to Ephraim Foundation and Portage’s Frederica Kleist”.
Norman Couture. “Johnston Hall renovation Delayed”. Marquette Tribune. October 2, 1974.
Peter Genovese. The Catholic Herald Citizen. Page 8. November 15, 1975