Preparatory School

Preparatory School, 1962. (click thumbnail for larger image)

Architect: Hansen & Michelson, St Paul


Dates: 1962

Previously located in the Quadrangle of St. John’s University, construction for a separate space for the Preparatory School began in September of 1961. These buildings were part of the original 100 year plan for St. John’s, which included the Abbey Church and Alcuin Library, among others.  The initial project, intended to take $3,000,000 and a year to complete, consisted of two buildings: St. Bede Hall and St. Michael Hall.

St. Bede Hall (carrying forward the name that had been used for the Prep classroom in the Quad), was the new academic building. It consisted of 3 large study halls, 12 classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, a temporary library, and a recreation room. Connected by an underground tunnel, St. Michael Hall was a split-level dormitory with 8 bays that could each house 60 beds.  Two of the bays were to be used, at least initially, as a recreation area.

The Preparatory School buildings were designed by Michelson and Hanson, former associates of Marcel Breuer.  Michelson stated that he “felt that this was a monastic school, and therefore had to be sufficiently austere to be in the Benedictine tradition, yet it had to be playful enough for a boys’ school.”

The new Prep School was built on what was known as “Observatory Hill,” overlooking Lake Sagatagan; the Observatory that had previously occupied this hill was removed to make room for the new school.

In 1996, construction began for the Weber Center, a place where the entire Prep community could gather together in one space (rather than using the University facilities or the dorm) for student gatherings, worship, theater, music and banquet events. The Weber Center was named in honor of Fathers Otto and Arnold Weber and the Bernard and Louise Weber family of St. Martin, MN, a family recognized for having notable influence in support of the abbey and prep school for decades.

The Meyer expansion for the sciences was completed in 2000, providing the necessary facilities for a modern science curriculum.

A 22,000 square feet Middle School expansion, which included classrooms, a choir room, and an orchestra/band room, was opened August 1, 2008.

On February 22, 2020, the Saint John Prep girls moved into the renovated Saint Michael Hall dorm at the Prep School. The space contained new rooms, a kitchen, fireplace, and a community room on the upper level. Before that, dating back to the fall of 1973, when girls could first enroll at Prep, they lived in Saint Joseph, with families as homestay students, in the College of Saint Benedict’s Richarda Hall, and then in Emmaus Hall on the Saint John’s campus. 

In the early hours of November 26, 2023, a small fire in a storage room in the Prep School dorm resulted in the temporary move of the boys into Joe Hall, an SJU dormitory. They were able to move back to Saint Michael Hall Dorm on December 1

Text drafted by Maria Schrupp, CSB ‘20