Paint Shop (previously used as Laundry, Electric Shop)


Paint Shop and Laundry

Photo: St. John’s Abbey Archives

Paint Shop and Laundry

Photo: Tom Gillespie, OSB

2014 Paint Shop Fire

Photo: Nick Moe, OSB

Designed by Father Raphael Knapp, O.S.B., and constructed in 1912, this building housed the paint and finishing department of Saint John’s until 2014.

As with many of the older buildings on campus, this structure had several lives. Originally, it was designed to serve as a laundry, replacing the first laundry facility which stood on the shores of Lake Sagatagan and which now serves as a student boat house.

The building, along with 16 others on the St. John’s campus, was entered into the National Register of Historic Places on March 23, 1979.  The following text appears on the document sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior when application to the Register was made in 1978:

“The Laundry Building was constructed in 1912 as a result of plans and labor by the Saint John’s Community.  It is utilitarian in appearance and makes no use of architectural ornamentation.  The Laundry is located in the southwest corner of the district.

This building is a two-storey rectangular brick structure.  It is approximately eighty feet long and forty feet wide.  The exterior walls feature many large windows.  A loading platform is attached to the wall on the south side.  The interior is made up of three large rooms which now house the electrical and paint shops of the institution.” (p. 4-5) 


Shortly after 5:00 pm on the evening of January 14, 2014, a fire of unknown cause began in the northern end of the building. Fortunately, neither his student employees nor Mr. Rob Stoeckel, Paint Department Coordinator, were injured, despite his efforts to extinguish the fire.  In the course of the next few hours, as the fire spread between layers of the roof and attempts were made to reach it using heavy equipment, roughly the northern two-thirds of the building was destroyed. In addition to the loss of the building itself, the Woodworking Department’s furniture, in the building awaiting finishing, was also burned in the fire, including numerous chairs, a new door for the Stella Maris Chapel, and over 140 beds that had been constructed for the Saint Thomas Hall dorm.

The debris from the fire was removed at the end of February, leaving the southern (office) section of the building standing. On August 7 and 8, 2014 the surviving portion of the building was purposefully removed from the site.