Architecturally, the buildings of St. John's Seminary and the Chancery represent a key component within Allston-Brighton's unusually extensive and architecturally distinguished collection of buildings associated with Boston's Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Scattered about Allston-Brighton, these Catholic churches, schools, convents and rectories generally reflect fine design and quality craftsmanship of their architects and builders.
The 50 acre St. John's Seminary campus represents an extraordinary marriage of architecture and landscape. To a remarkable degree, the campus retains the appearance and feeling of the mid 19th century Stanwood estate which preceded the purchase of the property by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Located on the "door step" of a major metropolitan area, its expansive lawns and picturesque wooded hills provide an ideal setting for students to engage in spiritual exploration, theological studies and athletic activities.
This campus is bounded by Lake Street on the west, the back lot lines of Glenmont Road houses and the Edison School on the north, Foster Street on the east and Commonwealth Avenue on the south. This campus is essentially divided into two horizontal zones. The northern terrain is characterized by level terrain encompassing the main entrance gates and curving drive leading to the St. John Seminary's complex constructed between 1881 and the 1950s, the tomb of Cardinal O'Connell and St. Clement's Hall (1940) overlooking Foster Street. The hilly southern zone features a great lawn and ten structures including the late 1920s Renaissance Revival Archbishop's House and Clergy Personnel/Tribunal Building as well as the Colonial Revival St. William's Hall (1936) and Georgian Revival Gymnasium (1938). Additionally a modern library and four modern structures owned by the Boston Archdiocese are located in the southern half of this remarkable campus.
The main St. John's Seminary complex encompasses five L-shaped structural components. The castle-like, Theology House was constructed of ledge stone quarried on site from designs provided by J.H. Besarick. Contrasting with this building's rock faced stone are smooth granite sill courses. With the exception of the fourth floor, all of the north wing's windows are set within segmental arches. Rising to a height of 4-stories this imposing, this Norman Gothic Revival building is composed of a north wing measuring 19-bays in width with a depth of 5-bays and a similarly rendered four-story south wing. The main and rear facade's display hip roofed, belvedere-topped center pavilions which measure three bays in width with a depth of a single bay. Springing from short, engaged collonnettes, the main facade's center entrance is set within a stone canopy culminating in a pointed arch. Projecting from the northwest and southwest corners of the north wing are this complex's most distinctive features: circular towers with conical, finial-surmounted roof caps. These towers flank a three -bay entrance facade which exhibits a 2-story projecting and enclosed entrance porch. Striking a curious note on a building overwhelmingly French Gothic in sensibility is the west facade Palladian window which opens on to a porch atop the entrance bay. The south wing of Theology House is similarly rendered and the same height as the north wing.
The north and south wings of Theology House represent the beginnings of a much larger, never-realized seminary complex originally slated to enframe a court yard. This court yard was partially realized with the construction of St. John Seminary's Chapel which represents a superb example of Italian Romanesque Revival ecclesiastical architecture and early work by the important Catholic church architects Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan. Constructed of ledge stone, this chapel measures three bays in width with a depth of 6-bays. A three arched loggia shelters the main entrance. Flanking the loggia are turret-surmounted piers with niches containing the full length sculptural figures of saints. Above the entrance are three arched windows. At the center of the facade gable is a niche containing a sculptural figure of St. John. Six stone buttresses divide the chapel's side walls into bays containing five tall and arched stained glass windows. Extending from the north wall is a two-story apse. Five arched windows rise from the second story's sill course.
Exhibiting elements of the Tudor Revival style, the L-shaped dining hall wing of St. John's Seminary was built during the 1920s. Rising to a height of 3.5-stories, it is constructed of ledge stone and is enclosed by a gable roof. Its narrow, single-bayed south gable exhibits a Tudoresque, 2-story copper oriel with apron panels and small-paned windows.
The modern, 1950s Peterson Hall is a rectangular, 5-story classroom and dormitory building constructed of brick with cast stone trimmings and a loggia which wraps around the north facade of the building. The 17-bay main (east) elevation features a three -bay, 5-story entrance facade which is faced with cast stone.
The Mausoleum of Cardinal O'Connell is a Gothic Revival structure composed of ledge stone with granite trimmings. Extending from near the top of the hillside south of the main St. John's Seminary complex, the mausoleum's arched entrance is flanked by full length sculptural figures of angels.
The Renaissance Revival and Georgian Revival St. Williams Hall at 37 Lake Street are situated atop a hill to the east of Lake Street, near the center of the campus. Originally constructed in 1890, Philosophy House as it was known, was destroyed by fire in 1936 and was subsequently rebuilt as St. William's Hall. The small rectangular two-story chapel projecting from the center of the east wall is all that survives from the 1890 structure. This chapel's ledge stone materials contrast with the yellow brick upper floors of the U-shaped 1936 main block. St. William's Hall rises three stories from a low, ledge stone basement to a low pitched, cupola-topped hip roof. Further research may reveal that the ledge stone basement and first floor were part of the 1890 structure. The main facade measures 28-bays in width and is seven bays deep. The main elevation is divided into a 20-bay entrance facade and flanking, 4-bay wings. The corners of this building are accented by stone quoins. Rising above the roof line of the flanking pavilions are segmental arches displaying oculus windows with ornate surrounds.
Situated on the east side of the great lawn is the B. F. Keith Memorial Gymnasium built during the late 1930s. This 1.5-story yellow brick building is enclosed by a gable roof. Measuring 8-bays in width, its side walls are three bays in depth. This Classical Revival and Georgian Revival building's main facade exhibits a center entrance flanked by tall, arched windows set within blind arches. The enclosed and projecting entrance porch exhibits double doors flanked by paired Tuscan columns and surmounted by a broken pediment. This structure's edges are accented by granite quoins.
The Clergy Personnel/Tribunal Building at 1 Lake Street is architecturally significant as a fine example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style. Designed by Desmond and Lord during the late l920s, this office building is part of a cluster of 6 Archdiocesan buildings (including St. William's Hall), at the southern end of this property. The two-story Tribunal Building is enclosed by a flat roof surmounted by a hip roofed monitor. This building measures 5-bays in width, with a depth of 4-bays. Particularly noteworthy is the main entrance which is recessed behind an archway supported by flanking Tuscan columns. The smooth walls of the arch's spandrels contrast with the rusticated entrance bay's surfaces.
Also noteworthy is the Maginnis and Walsh designed Archbishop's Residence whose massing and elements recall palazzos of Renaissance Rome. Characterized by an I-shaped form, its main facade measures 8-bays in length while its side walls are six -bays deep. Constructed of gray brick and enclosed by a flat roof, its edges are accented by stone quoins. Projecting from the center of the main facade is a rusticated porte cochere. The roof is encircled by a low balustrade.