History of St. Mary’s Academy
St. Mary’s Academy was founded on Christian Love and dedication by the Sisters of the Holy Family, December 3, 1867. It is one of the oldest high schools in the South.
St. Mary’s first opened its doors on Chartres Street as a part of the sisters’ convent. It remained here for fourteen years. In 1881 Mother Josephine purchased the new site at 717 Orleans Street. Chronicles state that this building has been the State Legislature, the First District Court, and a cultural center for such dignitaries as Marquis de Lafayette.
On October 4, 1881 St. Mary’s opened its doors at the new site. Soon, Mother Magdalene took over as Superior. Her first act in this position was to change the school’s name from St. Mary’s School to St. Mary’s Academy. The Academy remained at 717 Orleans for eighty-three years.
Later, St, Mary’s sought accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In order for this to happen, the school needed to acquire a gymnasium and auditorium. Since there was no adequate space available for the expansion on the Orleans site, the property was sold and in 1964 St. Mary’s began constructing a new academy on the grounds that were bought by Mother Austin in 1906.
While construction on the academy was occurring, St. Mary’s high school students were temporarily housed in the old St. Louis Cathedral School on St. Ann Street while seventh and eighth graders were housed in mobile classrooms on the mother house grounds.
Once again, St. Mary’s moved. This time it would be like no other for the students of S.M.A. This time St. Mary’s would be a modern and spacious plant located at 6905 Chef Menteur Highway. It was completed in 1965 at the cost of one and five-tenths million dollars and occupying seven acres of land.
The total plant consists of seven buildings: the Administrative and Classroom building, Maria Hall (cafeteria), Austin Gymnasium, the Faculty House and St. Joseph Center. The Co-op (student center) and Juliette Memorial (the fine arts center) designed and constructed by the fathers of the Parents-Teachers Association. Our Lady of the Pines Chapel, a dream come true, was dedicated March 2, 1986 which further enlarges the present campus.