Since the day it opened on September 8, 1881, Dana Hall has offered boarding to its students. In 2014-15, the School had a total of 138 boarding students from all over the country and the world. The boarding program has provided a long history of rich opportunities for fellowship and community and has helped forge the strong relationships that have developed among classmates and faculty.
Until the Johnston dormitories were built, Dana Hall’s boarding program was comprised of a number of buildings located on Grove Street and Hampden Street including Dana Main, and as many as 18 free standing houses that served as student residences. By 1962 many of the old wooden buildings were showing signs of wear and fire was a constant concern. In 1962, when Dana Hall separated from Pine Manor College and Pine Manor relocated to Chestnut Hill, School leaders decided the campus would move to the old Pine Manor site, beginning with the classroom building. The Pine Manor campus already had a number of living spaces for students including 22 houses and, like the Dana Hall houses, many were in poor condition.
The Johnston dormitories were conceived as a new arrangement for school living designed exclusively for seniors, with the theory that buildings would provide an opportunity for more independence to adjust to the freedom of college life. Originally designed to house 128 students and one house family, it soon became evident that more supervision was needed and some of the student rooms were converted to housing for House Assistants. This was a significant change from the norm as the dormitories had been supervised primarily by house mothers.
The buildings were designed by Hugh Stubbins, an architect who also designed the Citicorp Center in New York, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Yokohama Landmark Tower (the tallest building in Japan). Construction on the Johnstons began on Alumnae Day, 1964 and was complete on Alumnae Day in 1965. The project cost of $1.2 million was met through the financial support of parents, alumnae and friends.
The buildings were named after Dana Hall’s fourth Head of School Alnah James Johnston. At the April 25, 1964 groundbreaking ceremony for the Johnston Residence Hall, a humbled Mrs. Johnson predicted the new building “will become a strong and beautiful link between the past and the present, and stand as a promise for a brilliant future.” Dana Hall’s former Head of School was a visionary and champion for progress, playing an integral role in planning the Wellesley campus we know today.
All freshmen and sophomore boarding students are assigned to live in the Johnstons, and many choose to remain there because of its proximity to the Shipley Center. Today, the Johnstons' dorms are known as Johnstons A-D; they house 98 students with a range of 22 to 24 girls in each building. The two other dormitories on campus are Wheeler and Greylodge, accommodating between 30 and 32 students and 14 to 16 students respectively.