Peoria County, Illinois  Genealogy Trails




Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart


(Karen Seeman, 2013)


(photo from The Schools and the Teachers of Early Peoria)


The Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was an aspiration for Peoria Catholics going back to 1839, when the first of several requests for sisters was made. Those requests were finally successful in 1863, when Rev. Henry Coyle of St. Mary's was notified that 7 sisters would be sent from St. Louis to accomplish that work. Rev. Coyle, however, had moved to the East when it actually happened. In April of 1863, his successor, Rev. Abraham Ryan, along with Matthew Henebery, accompanied the sisters from St. Louis to Peoria to begin the process. They were Sister Teresa Struckhoff (Superior), Sister Jane de Chantal Martin, Sister Lawrence Calvin, Sister Nativity Boyle, Sister Augustine Spencer, Sister William McDonnell and Sister Paul Quinn. They began their mission at St. Mary's Parochial school, taking on a few female students for the Academy.

The first location for the Academy was a former home located at 205 N. Madison, between Hamilton and Fayette streets, under the name of "St. Joseph Academy." The men who helped to locate and purchase the property were Thomas O'Neill, Peter Carty, Isaac Bushell, Michael Powers, Patrick W. Dunne, Charles Burke, John Boyle, J. C. Mulvihill, and Mr. Phalen.

In 1874, the Academy had outgrown the building, and property was purchased at the corner of Madison and Eaton (which later became Bryan). A large four-story brick building was erected at a cost of $35,000, and the name was changed to "Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart." This move enabled them to take on about 75 students, both day students and boarders.

The size of the building was doubled in 1902 in response to the growing need, and the Academy could then accommodate about 300 students. Courses included Rhetoric, Natural Philosophy, Civil Government, Literature, Geology, Zoology, Mytholody, Botany, Astronomy, Mental Philosophy, Chemistry, Criticism, French, German, Spanish, Music, and Art.

In back of this school was a stone pile 5-6' high, 8-10' long at the base. No one living at that time (1900) knew the purpose or origin of this structure, but the Sisters of the Convent believed it marked the spot where the first cross was planted by the priests who came with La Salle, citing legend.

In 1930, Edmund Dunne Hall was constructed.

The building was demolished in 1957, replaced by a new convent. The school was then located on the 400 block of N.E. Madison.



Filip, Fred. "Academy to Mark 100th Anniversary Wednesday." Peoria Journal Star, August 18, 1963.

David , McCulloch. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County Vol. II. Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, 1902.

Wells, Hubert Wetmore. The Schools and the Teachers of Early Peoria. Peoria: Jacquin & Co., 1900.

Scott, Winfield & R. W. Miles. The History of Peoria County, Illinois : containing a history of the Northwest, history of Illinois, history of the county, its early settlement, growth, development, resources, etc., etc., a sketch of its cities and towns, their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools, etc., etc., a war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion, general and local statistics, biographical sketches, portraits of early settlers and prominent men, map of Peoria County, Constitution of the United States, miscellaneous matters, tables, etc., etc.. Chicago: Johnson & Co., 1880.

Polk, R. L. Polk's Peoria (Peoria County, Ill.) 1957. St. Louis: R. L. Polk & Co., 1957.

Polk, R. L. Polk's Peoria (Peoria County, Ill.) 1959. St. Louis: R. L. Polk & Co., 1959.

R.L. Polk, Polk's Peoria (Peoria County, Ill.) 1970, (Detroit: R. L. Polk & Co., 1970).



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