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History

St. John’s College is the third oldest college in the United States. Here is a timeline of the college’s history.

1696

The King William’s School, the Maryland colony’s “free” school, is founded.

1784

The state of Maryland charters St. John’s College, merging it with King William’s School; four of the college founders signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

1789

The former governor’s mansion, McDowell Hall, is completed and serves as the foundation for the college; it is now the third oldest academic building in continuous use in the country.

1791

President George Washington, who in 1783 resigned his commission down the street, visits St. John’s College, expressing “much satisfaction at the appearance of this rising seminary.”

1814

Francis Scott Key, a St. John’s alumnus, watches the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore and pens a poem—“The Star-Spangled Banner”—commemorating the American victory.

1863

During the Civil War when Camp Parole is built outside the city of Annapolis, the Union’s medical corps takes over St. John’s buildings, which became known as College Green Hospital.

1899

The Black and Orange, the St. John’s College football team, earns a 62-0 victory against what is now the University of Maryland, making the front page of the Washington Post.

1909

A fire engulfs McDowell Hall and nearly burns the historic center of St. John’s College to the ground; in the aftermath of the blaze, alumni successfully advocate to have the building restored as close as possible to the original design.

1937

Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan implement their big idea, the New Program, which the college still follows today.

1950

Alumni Jac Holzman and Paul Rickolt started Elektra Records in Holzman’s dorm room. The label roster includes such legendary bands as Queen, the Doors, the Stooges, MC5, and many more.

1951

St. John’s admits its first class of women students; American folk legend Woody Guthrie performs at the college.

1959

President Dwight Eisenhower dedicates the McKeldin Planetarium and two other buildings on the Annapolis campus.

1964

The college’s Santa Fe campus opens, with 81 students in the first freshman class.

1967

St. John’s launches a summer institute for teachers, which will become the St. John’s College Graduate Institute.

1984

The Johnnies battle the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy in the Annapolis Cup croquet match, the first in a now decades-long tradition.

1991

Christopher B. Nelson is inaugurated as 23rd president of the Annapolis campus.

1994

The Eastern Classics program officially joins the Graduate Institute in Santa Fe.

2005

Six million viewers tune in to a segment about St. John’s on the Today Show.

2016

Mark Roosevelt is inaugurated as seventh president of the Santa Fe campus.