Academy of Notre Dame



            Short history from Althoff High School: (pictures courtesy Sr, Carol Marie SSND

In 1859, the School Sisters of Notre Dame founded the Institute of Immaculate Conception Academy in downtown Belleville. It was the forerunner of the Academy of Notre Dame. I


                                                        CA became a secondary school in 1863.

                                            (On the night of January 5, 1884, the school burned down.                    

                                         Twenty-two students and four sisters perished in the fire.

                                   More about the fire -


At the Green Mount Cemetery there is a marker commemorating those who died - 4 sisters and 22 boarders. They rebuilt in the same location.)                                                                                      


In 1925, the school was moved to West Main Street and was renamed the Academy of Notre Dame. (It is interesting to note that some records call the school Notre Dame Academy and others call it Academy of Notre Dame). Annunciation Hall was the first of the buildings on the new site. Construction of Visitation Hall was completed in 1937, and the new gymnasium/cafeteria, Regina Hall, was built in 1964. Residential facilities were available for students attending Notre Dame until 1953.


The Academy of Notre Dame closed at the end of the 1972 school year. The fact that the school was built over the old coal mines contributed greatly to its closing. mine subsidence caused irreparable damage to Visitation Hall, forcing the building to be razed in 1968.

During the course of its 113 years of existence, the Academy of Notre Dame educated many of the young women in the Belleville area. Its last graduation took place on May 29. 1972.


Long History provided by Barbara Brumleve, SSND at Ripa:

On September 6, 1925, a parade of 1000 automobiles headed by the Belleville Mayor Joseph Anton gathered near Immaculate Conception Academy at 3rd and Harrison Streets and then moved west on Main Street to the new site of the Notre Dame Academy at 6401 West Main. East St Louis Catholics assembled at State and 33rd Streets and marched east to join the crowd a the dedication of the new school. Overhead a Scott Air Force Base plane dipped and dropped a bouquet of roses with a card: "To Mother Superior and the Sisters of Notre Dame Academy from the Army Post of Scott Field. Congratulations."

Dedication of the new building culminated many hours of sacrifice on the part of the women who sponsored monthly raffles to raise money for the school; people across the Diocese of Belleville who netted $15,000 on a car raffle; and Belleville citizens like Arthur Reeb who made trip after trip to move furniture from ICA to the new site. The dedication ceremony successfully realized the dream of Bishop Henry Althoff to provide a Catholic high school for girls in the Belleville Diocese.

To outward appearances, the new four-story building was complete at its dedication but inside, teachers and students competed with electricians, plasterers, painters, and carpenters finishing their work. On the first day of class 101 students enrolled; soon another 150 followed. Sister Paulana Ritz, superior at ICA, and other sisters moved to the new building. Rev John Fallon, Diocesan Superintendent of Schools, also moved to the new academy and became chaplain. Notre Dame Academy thus became headquarters for the Catholic education activities of the diocese and office of the Diocesan School Board.

At the new school some traditions of the former academy remained - Mary crowning; seasonal parties...but others changed. The first graduation, for example, was religious rather than dramatic in character. Bishop Henry Althoff officiated and addressed the young women:

"Go into the world, my dear graduates, you have laid a good foundation in the training you have undergone fore the formation of an ideal character."

Eight young women received their diplomas from the Bishop: Leona Aug, Norma Barbeau, Rose Faber, Margaret Honer, Dorothy Kohl and Emma Kohl from Cathedral parish, and Regina Hamilton of Equality, and Lovine Slow of Eldorado.

For the next fifty years, young women learned and grew at the Notre Dame Academy. At annual mission bazaars they raised money for missions. Read-a-Wee, the school newspaper won journalism awards for its reporting of school activities. By 1928, already the school needed more room, but the financial crisis of the 1929 and Depression made construction impossible. Finally, on September 11, 1938, Bishop Henry Althoff presided over the dedication of the three-story Visitation Hall, built to accommodate 500 students. Space continued to be a problem, however, in succeeding years, forcing the closing of the boarding department in 1952, and the erection of Regina Hall - a combination gymnasium and cafeteria building in 1964.

After its construction it was evident that the land on which the Academy was built was subsiding because of the old mine shafts beneath. Regina Hall was built with subsidence in mind, the older buildings were not so lucky. Cracks developed in both older buildings but especially Visitation, the main classroom building. Despite engineering studies it was not possible to salvage the building which finally had to be razed in 1968, depriving the school of 30 classroom, labs and offices. Mobile units, inadequate for long-term use for a high school curriculum, provided only temporary relief. Faced with the prospects, the School Sisters of Notre Dame decided to close Notre Dame Academy. On December. 1971, 497 students gathered in the gym to hear that their school would close a the end of the school year. On May 19 1972, 114 graduates received their diplomas from Notre Dame Academy, the last in a line that stretched unbroken o the first graduates of Immaculate Conception Academy. Many students continued their Catholic education at Althoff High School (built in 1964) located at 5700 West Main Street.

In 1905, Regina Hall Hall still stands, used as a medical center. Where Visitation Hall and Annunciation Hall once housed students and their Notre Dame teachers, a shopping center serves the western portion of Belleville. The bell that once chimed the Angelus from the Academy rings in a church in Ghana, Africa. The altar in honor of Mary, the Mother of God, which once graced the Academy chapel, now stands in the side chapel of St Peter Cathedral in Belleville.

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