To this day, these lofty symbols serve as a reminder of the Johnson Publishing Company’s complex history, as well as the triumph, determination, and empowerment of the American dream. In keeping with the legacy of John H. and Eunice W. Johnson, Columbia College plans to preserve these signs in perpetuity.
Columbia College Chicago’s new library, soon to be relocated in the first seven floors of the John H. and Eunice W. Johnson Center, will reshape the fabric of the campus community. Housing an extensive collection of multimedia, the library will be more than just a print archive; it will be a nimble, technologically-capable, interactive center comprising visual art, digital books, photography, and other compilations. Featured among these will be the innovative Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), the only organization of its kind. One of several special collections within the college archives, the CBMR documents the black music experience and follows it across Africa and the diaspora.
A central initiative of the Johnson Legacy Project, Columbia College Chicago plans to preserve John H. Johnson’s 11th-floor office suite. This design marvel, which few people have had the privilege to see, will be made available for public viewing and tours. The suite occupies the entire floor: 7,500 square feet of plush suede, rich wood, and vintage designer furniture. The walls of the publishing office are primarily cushioned brown suede, with walnut leather used for the conference room. From the reception area, visitors’ eyes are drawn towards the penthouse balcony, which offers a stunning view of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, between the Field Museum and Navy Pier. Visitors will also have the chance to see Johnson’s one-of-a-kind marble desk, as well as his bedroom, exercise space, and built-in barbershop—all preserved in their original condition.
Columbia College Chicago plans to maintain the authenticity of the Johnson Publishing Building’s breathtaking two-story lobby, keeping it as close to the original 1972 design as possible. The way the dark-stained walls soar 18 feet overhead, with bronze inlays over sleek Mozambique Wood (a fine-grained wood imported from Africa and cut specifically for this part of the building), the space feels more like a sanctuary than an office lobby. To contrast the richness of the wood and bronze, the lobby is lined with 60 feet of vintage red sofas, which are in turn complemented by the red lacquer of the reception desk. Along the back wall, still prominently displayed, is the sculpture by famed Chicago artist Richard Hunt, titled Expansive Construction—a prized artifact that has been part of the Johnson Publishing Building since its earliest days.