The First Century
Holy Names Academy was founded in 1880 by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. This religious community—guided from its inception in 1843 in Québec, Canada, by the vision of its foundress, Blessed Mother Marie Rose Durocher—was dedicated to providing education for young women. In 1859 the Congregation first sent sisters to Oregon; some 20 years later, Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine asked them to establish a Catholic school for young women in Seattle. Four sisters, led by Sister Mary Francis Xavier, arrived on November 9, 1880.
The Academy began in two buildings at Second and Seneca Streets with 21 day students, one boarder, and one music student. Four years later the school’s growth and the press of downtown development in the young city necessitated the move to a new building at Seventh and Jackson Streets.
The Move to Capitol Hill
By the turn of the 20th century, the school and city’s growth again caused the sisters to move, this time to what was then considered “the wilderness” of Capitol Hill. Under the leadership of an energetic new Superior, Sister Mary Leontine, construction of the present Holy Names Academy began in 1906. Bishop Edward J. O’Dea presided at the cornerstone laying in 1907 and at the dedication of the school on November 9, 1908.
The new building accommodated all 12 grades and a new Normal School for the training of teachers. When it opened, 17 sisters taught 155 day students and 127 boarders. In 1909, the auditorium was completed, a project given priority so that proceeds from music and drama presentations could be used to fund other work in the building. The chapel was completed in 1925, the music department in 1929, and the underground tunnel— now used for locker space—in 1948. The school’s historic elevator, one of Seattle’s oldest, was installed in 1931.