Academy & All-Girls Schools History

Ladywood School (1926-1970)

In the 1920s, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was thriving as well as the high school, namely, St. Mary’s Institute. Accrediting agencies were not in favor of colleges and high schools sharing the same facilities. A decision was made to locate the Academy elsewhere.

Much thought was put into the choice of a location. Property became available in the northeast part of Indianapolis. In 1926, the Sisters of Providence bought some of the property of the Fletcher Estate which included Laurel Hall. The process of changing Laurel Hall into a select finishing school for girls, both as a resident and day school, began.

In September of 1926, Laurel Hall, now to be known as Ladywood School for Girls was opened with six young women in Sophomore year and eight in Freshmen year. Due to an increase in enrollment, Loretto Hall was built and opened in 1928. Ladywood School was maintained as an exclusive finishing school for 37 years. In 1963, a new school building was erected and Laurel Hall and some other property were sold. In 1970, St. Agnes Academy merged with Ladywood. The young women who graduated from Ladywood became very influential in the local area as well as in many areas of the world.

Ladywood-St. Agnes (1970-1976)

At the time of the merger between Ladywood School and St. Agnes in 1970, 600 girls attended Ladywood-St. Agnes School. The quality of the education maintained there led to the development of many leaders in the community and elsewhere. Meanwhile, areas in the central part of the city of Indianapolis were changing. Cathedral High School for Boys, located across the street from the former St. Agnes Academy, was in need of a new location. It was decided by the sisters to sell the property to Cathedral High School with the agreement that the school would be co-educational. Several Sisters of Providence remained on the staff of the new school. Ladywood-St. Agnes merged with Cathedral in 1976 after six years of great work.

Our Lady of Grace Academy (1956-1978)

In the mid 1950's the Benedictine Community in Ferdinand, Indiana was growing at a rapid pace.  The need to establish a new community was obvious.  At that same time, Most Reverend Paul D. Schulte desired to provide a retirement home for the elderly.  The sisters at Ferdinand and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis agreed to work together.  The Archdiocese would provide the land for a new community and the retirement home which would become St. Paul Hermitage.

The ministry of the sisters at that time, was primarily education, therefore it was only natural the sisters would open a school on the property in addition to the retirement home.  And so in 1956 Our Lady of Grace Academy opened her doors with 27 ninth graders.  The academy also housed a kindergarten which was open for 12 years.  The academy began with one building which was attached to the monastery.  It not only included classrooms, a library, labs and cafeteria, it also included bedrooms for the young women who were boarders.  Students came not only from Indiana but other neighboring states and even some International students attended the academy. 

In 1978, the Sisters of St. Benedict made the painful decision to close the doors of Our Lady of Grace Academy.  Due to economic problems, the establishment of more co-educational secondary schools and the decrease in enrollment, the sisters had no other recourse.

St. Agnes Academy (1908-1970)

St. Agnes Academy was built in 1908 and served as a prominent all-girls college preparatory high school located in downtown Indianapolis until it merged with Ladywood and became Ladywood-St. Agnes.

St. John Academy (1895-1959)

St. John was the first Catholic School in Indianapolis. It included both grade and high school. The pastor at St. John’s, Reverend Augustine Bessonies, requested the service of the Sisters of Providence to staff the schools. At first, with only 80 students, the outlook for the high school was dim. Later boarding pupils came from Edinburg, Martinsville, Franklin and nearby towns to increase the enrollment.

Shortly after the school was established, the Civil War broke out. At the request of Governor Oliver Morton the Sisters of Providence took over the administration of the military hospital. The sisters, students of St. John Academy and members of the parish helped the three sister-nurses, who lived at St. John’s Convent, with their support.

In 1872, a three-story building was begun to replace the original school. This building was razed in 1959 when the school closed due to changing economic conditions. “Good old St. John’s” was the source of many vocations to the sisterhood, many excellent students for higher education, and many excellent wives, mothers and business women in the city of Indianapolis.

St. Mary Academy (1864-1977)

St. Mary's German Catholic Church was opened in 1858. In 1864, the Sisters of St. Francis were asked to take over the existing girls school in St. Mary's parish. In 1876, they moved into a new building, located on the South side of Maryland St., west of Delaware St.

In the 1940's, St. Mary's Academy was the only private secondary school in Indianapolis that would accept African American students.

The school was closed in 1977, with most of the students moving to Bishop Chatard and Cathedral High School.