The Chapel had been a part of the College's building plans since 1905. An initial design was later submitted by the firm of Maginnis and Walsh in 1915 but postponed because of the urgency of the final years of World War I. With the armistice in 1918 came the desire to build a chapel that would commemorate those who had given their lives in the war. St. Joseph Memorial Chapel was dedicated on May 1, 1924. Erected in the memory of 24 Holy Cross students who gave their lives during World War I, St. Joseph Memorial Chapel is named after St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their names are inscribed at the entrance, a list which then grew with the dead of subsequent wars.
Bishop Beaven celebrated the dedicatory mass. The chapel's stained glass windows were installed in 1925 and the niche statues that depict St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier were installed in 1938. The current organ, which replaces another state of the art model, is a Taylor and Boody organ.
Maginnis and Walsh, the architects, designed a monumental temple-like façade to grace an essentially simple and compact building. The four free-standing Corinthian columns are reflected by four pilasters on the wall. The side aisles which house the confessionals fit within the low projecting area at the sides.
The water color drawing was created by the architects Maginnis and Walsh to show not only what the Chapel would look like, but how it would fit into its surrounding area. The rural nature of the college and framing trees are stressed. The classical inspiration is emphasized by a Latin inscription, ultimately rejected, that reads "Approach the temple of God ," with Greek-key motifs at the opening and closing of the text.
The Chapel's façade shows four Corinthian columns on a monumental scale. Above the columns a Latin inscription presents the introduction to the Mass "Introibo ad altare Dei ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam," (I will go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.) In the triangular pediment above, adoring angels flank Christ in Glory.
There were alternate proposals for the style of the Chapel. In 1920 Henry H. Braun, a New York architect, submitted plans for a Gothic Revival building. The selection of the Boston firm of Maginnis and Walsh, however, may have rested on their reputation for the construction of Boston College when the school relocated from the city of Boston to the Chestnut Hill area. Since Boston College's buildings were Gothic, the Jesuits at Holy Cross probably did not favor a repetition.
Part of Henry Braun's Gothic proposal gives a detailed depiction of the façade and side elevation. Pointing arches, triple-lancet stained glass windows with Gothic tracery, and a rose stained glass window at the entrance proclaim the style. The plan also shows a steeply pitched roof, two façade towers, and a spire rising from the crossing.
Henry H. Braun also submitted a "Renaissance Sketch" for the new building. The plan suggests entrances from the transepts as well as the façade, a baldacchino over the altar, and an interior arcade in the Corinthian style. The plan also sets large round-arched windows on the lower level with half circle windows under the vaults.