Development of Ursuline Academy in St. Louis


Our own Ursuline Academy in St. Louis was founded by three Ursuline Sisters from Austria-Hungary and a young woman from Bavaria who was preparing to become an Ursuline Sister.  They arrived in St. Louis on September 5, 1848, and on November 2, less than two months after their arrival, they opened the school that would be known as Ursuline Academy.  This first school was located on Fifth Street, near the old French market.

ursuline academy in st louis


A larger school building was needed, and the school at 12th and Russell Streets was built.  Today this property is the site of St. Joseph’s Croatian Church.



1914 ursuline academy in st louis

As the new century dawned, the building on 12th Street was in need of repairs and no longer adequate for the kind of education the Sisters wanted to offer.  Toward the close of 1914, a beautifully wooded 28-acre tract with an old colonial-style mansion was offered for sale in Oakland.  The Sisters purchased the property, and in the spring of 1915 the mansion was furnished and arranged as a school and the Sisters’ quarters.  A high school was opened there in September 1915.




ursuline academy in st louis1925 

Ground was broken for a new convent and academy.  By August 1926, the present brick structure facing the pond, now known as Merici Hall, was ready for occupancy



A west building, now known as Brescia Hall, was added. This offered additional classroom space and a new gymnasium.


ursuline academy in st louis1988 

The old mansion, which had previously been torn down, was replaced with a new residence for the Ursuline Sisters, where they lived until the summer of 2005.  This made possible the Academy’s expansion into what had been the convent facilities.




2002 ursuline academy in st louis

Ursuline was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.



The Convocation and Athletic Center opened, offering a new gymnasium, athletic training facilities, larger locker rooms, coaching offices, classroom space, concession stand and a large lobby, later named O’Hara Hall, which is used for special events and student community space. The new facility was officially named O’Hara Hall after a past Ursuline President of the Academy, Sr. Madonna O’Hara, O.S.U., who left office in 2006. 



Hartnett Hall, named for longtime educator Mrs. Thelma Hartnett, was constructed to connect our previous two school buildings, Brescia and Merici Hall.

This space provides students with a STEAM model of education and new resources like:

  • Four new science labs

  • A choral music and band room

  • A modern dance studio

  • An elevator system allowing the whole campus to be ADA compliant