The history of the founding of St. John’s College and the construction of the present building is fairly well recorded. There was a commencement of a Catholic Theological School in Waterford in or about 1800 or 1801. It was housed in the Trinitarian orphan house in John’s Avenue/John’s Street. There were two possible candidates for this school, either Dr. Flynn’s School or Dr. Keating’s Academy, however, in the Episcopalate of Bishop John Power, 1807 – 1810, the two schools were amalgamated at St. Dominic’s Industrial School in the Manor and formally instituted as St. John’s College in what was Wyse’s Mansion. Dr. Flynn was installed as first president of the newly founded College In 1867 a decision was made to build a new College. The Architect, George Goldie (1828 – 1887), who practised in Cork was appointed to design the new College and the builder was B. McMullan from Cork. George Goldie, an Englishman, had a distinguished career in Ireland as a designer of Cathedrals, Churches, Convents and other religious houses. The site chosen for the new College was the grounds of John’s Hill House. The college cost £23,000.00 to build and opened in 1871.
The building was designed in what might be loosely termed the Gothic Revival style but without the attention to Gothic details that one would find in a building by Nash or Pugin or their associates and successors in Ireland, the exception being the College Chapel where a much higher degree of Gothic Revival style is displayed. Goldie adapted the Puginesque domestic style of Gothic Revival for the building in its overall form, and particularly in the placing of large chimneys rising from the eaves, including one dummy chimney. The use of two centered arched windows on the ground floor, as the principal Gothic feature, is diminished by the poor design of the timber windows. The use of rectangular window openings with eight over eight pane sliding sash windows at first floor level, and over six panes at second floor level, is a complete departure from Gothic principles.
The use of the building as a Theological College was wound up in the 1990’s and the building was unoccupied for a number of years. The basic layout of the building remains unchanged from the original construction.