The site for the school has been the home of a Darlington school since 1818. According to local tradition a teacher who was an ardent Mason, named the school for the apostle St. John. Initially, the school was open only to boys.
During the nineteenth century the front campus of St. John’s Academy, which early became known as the Academy Green, was often the scene of important social, military, and political activities in the town of Darlington. During 1865-1866, at the close of the Civil War, Federal occupation troops camped on the green in tents and converted the St. John’s building into a hospital for their wounded. In 1880, a Confederate Monument was erected on the Academy Green and Confederate memorial ceremonies were held on the green until the monument was moved to the Court House square in 1883. In 1880 St. John’s Academy became Darlington Military Academy and operated under this name for a time. The South Carolina Legislature passed an act to establish a new school district in Darlington County in 1888 making the school a part of the public school system.
In 1902, the brick building (pictured above) of what became known as the Grammar School was built directly in front of the old frame school building. The ever- expanding student body brought about the need for a new building (pictured below) and St. John’s High School was built in 1915 and was opened to fifty-four boys and fifty-three girls on January 4, 1916.
Old St. John's High School Building
Dargan Memorial Amphitheater
The lovely Dargan Memorial Amphitheater was formally opened on May 1, 1925. The open-air Greek style Theater is set on a natural slope on the banks of Swift Creek. A granite marker at the entrance to the amphitheater proclaims that it is “Dedicated to the happiness of youth”.
The auditorium, the gymnasium and classroom annex were added to the St. John’s complex in 1935, with the auditorium being dedicated to long-time Superintendent J.C. Daniel in 1948. The J.C. Daniel Auditorium is now a part of the St. John’s Heritage Foundation and has been renovated and renamed the J.C. Daniel Center for Performing Arts.
Presently, the old Grammar School building houses 3K and 5k through second grades and the old High School building houses 4k, and fourth through fifth grades. The cafeteria building houses third grade. The interiors of both buildings have been completely renovated, but the exteriors have retained their original beauty and architectural style.