The History

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Photo from Clemson University Libraries. Original Barrack No. 2 constructed in 1904. Building demolished in 1954 to make way for Johnstone Hall.

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Photo from Clemson University Libraries. Johnstone construction process-- shows raised slabs that were hoisted up to construct the complex at Building E. Renound for being built "top down." January 9, 1954. 

In 1948, the Clemson Board of Trustees voted to enact the Lanham Act Housing which allowed public colleges to build temporary housing on their land for increasing student populations.  The university could avoid the requirement of demolition after two years under this act by submitting a resolution from the municipality.  Clemson University used this to plan the construction of Johnstone and, because they got the waiver of demolition, these “temporary housing” [1] buildings lasted over half a century on Clemson’s campus.  Once the board decided to build Johnstone, Daniel Construction had the lowest bid so they built it with the help of architects Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle, and Wolff.  The board also decided that the complex should be named in dedication to Alan Johnstone, the president of the Board of Trustees and a state senator.  

Construction for Johnstone first broke ground at the beginning of  1954 after the demolition of Barracks one, two, and three.  The final construction included six “Johnstones” ranging from A to F and two annexes, one attached to A and the other to F.  Johnstone was constructed in a rather temporary way with a Slick lift-slab method, essentially building them from the top down.  It was only one of three buildings constructed like this and is the last one standing.  It only took crews around 6 months to complete the first building, Johnstone B, located across the street from the Trustee house, and the structure speaks for itself.  It had thin walls and non-stop drafts. It was said to have been crumbling since the day it was put up.  People at Clemson referred to them as the “Tin Cans” because of the sheet metal walls and overall questionable structure.  Although these buildings were haphazardly constructed, that does not mean their time or use on campus was short with Johnstone A making it until 2022 before the threat of demolition.  

Johnstone was a massive structure enveloping almost all of Clemson’s core campus; within it, there was the University Post Office, Harcombe Dining Hall, the Student Union, and the Quadrangle–set up for cadet formations.  The structure itself was built on a slope so while there are nine levels in the Johnstone complex, no building contains more than five of these floors so the sections were level.  It is safe to say that Johnstone was the place to be, but not the best to live in, which is unfortunate because it housed many Clemson students during its time.  Johnstone was also the first building to be desegregated on Clemson’s campus when Harvey Gantt came to the university and lived there as the first black student in 1963.  There are countless stories of the thin walls, asbestos-filled ceilings, and the stench that engulfed Johnstone.  People said that the conditions were too rough for women, but in the early 1980s, Johnstone A was opened to women.  It was the only one ever to allow women because it was the nicest of the six, but it went back to all men in 2011.  While it was not the best place to live, it definitely built quite the community and people recollect fond memories of their time there.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Johnstone is no exception.  In 1991, the first two Johnstones, B and C, were demolished, followed by D, E, and F in 2001, with A and the rest of the union soon to join them in 2022.  As times changed, Johnstone and the Union could not keep up with the need for a phone in every room, personal television and computers, Amazon and online shopping, and a higher quality of living. It was clear that Johnstone was the odd one out in the Clemson Housing community.  In its place went Holmes, McCabe, McCalister dining hall, Gressette, Deschamps, Cribb, and offices for the Clemson Honors college.  In 2022, Johnstone A and the rest of the union will also be demolished to create access for more green space on the west side of campus, and a more modern design overall.

[1] Board of Trustees, Clemson University, "Clemson Trustees Minutes, 1948 June 18" (1948).  Minutes.  432.

University, Clemson, "The Tiger Vol. XLVII No. 17 - 1954-02-11" (1954). Tiger Newspapers. 2640.

"Johnstone" Image Collection: Clemson Libraries. Clemson University Digital Collections. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2022, from

The History