The Early Years
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 by the vision of its foundress, Mother Marie-Rose Durocher, was dedicated to providing education for young women, just as the Academy is today. In 1859 the Congregation sent its first sisters to Oregon and, some twenty years later, responded favorably to the request of Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine to establish a school for young women in Seattle. Four sisters, led by Sister Mary Francis Xavier, arrived on November 9, 1880, a date celebrated every year at Holy Names Academy as Foundation Day.
Second and Seneca
Seventh and Jackson
The Academy was first located in two buildings at Second and Seneca Streets. It opened with 21 day students, one boarder and one music student. Within four years the growth of the school and the press of downtown development necessitated the Academy’s move to a new site, at Seventh and Jackson Streets, where a new building was built and dedicated in 1884. By the turn of the century, the growth of both the school and the city once again caused the sisters to consider moving, this time to what was then considered “the wilderness” of Capitol Hill. Under the leadership of their energetic new Superior, Sister Mary Leontine, construction of the present Holy Names Academy was begun in 1906. Bishop Edward J. O’Dea presided at the laying of the cornerstone in 1907 and at the dedication of the school on November 9, 1908, occasions that brought together many members of the community. Mother Martin of the Ascension, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Names, came from Montreal, Canada, for the dedication.
The new building, although not quite finished, accommodated all twelve grades and a new Normal School for the training of teachers. Seventeen sisters taught a student body made up of 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 elevator, one of the oldest in Seattle and recently renovated, was installed in 1931.
The Academy’s imposing architecture, designed in the neo-classical style by Albert Breitung, has been carefully preserved over the years. Few exterior changes have occurred other than the removal of the north tower sometime after a 1965 earthquake, and the addition in 1990 of a new gym––which so closely resembles the original building that visitors often think it has been in place for much longer. Inside the main building, however, educational needs have prompted a number of changes. On its way to becoming a four-year college preparatory school for girls in grades 9 through 12, HNA closed the Normal School in 1930, the grade school in 1963, and the boarding component in 1967. These and other programmatic developments allowed for the construction of new classrooms and offices from a network of smaller rooms, and for the networking of the entire building to support technology. Renovations have always been respectful of the school’s history; for example, new moldings and floors match the originals throughout the building, and the old laundry chutes now house computer cables and telephone wires.
In 1972 Holy Names Academy encountered a major challenge when the Seattle Fire Department ruled that the school was out of compliance with fire safety regulations and needed substantial renovation. The issue galvanized the HNA community of parents and friends, and the sisters engaged an advisory board to assist with fundraising and facility planning. This original advisory board evolved into a high-functioning Board of Trustees which became the policy-making body for the school and assumed full responsibility for the fiscal health of the organization. In 1980 the Board launched its first official capital campaign in order to repair the roof and dome, renovate the physics lab, and create a college counseling center. Five years later, on June 21, 1985, Holy Names Academy was separately incorporated from the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. This mutual agreement, which grew out of a strong and vibrant relationship with the sisters that remains to this day, ensures the long-term future of the school.
Another major milestone in the recent history of the school was the construction of the Jeanne Marie McAteer Lee Gymnasium in 1990 on the former site of the tennis courts. Prior to completion of the gym, all athletic practices and competitions were held in rented or loaned spaces. The new gym provided a tremendous resource as HNA developed its athletic program. The capital campaign that funded this project was so successful that the school was able to establish a reserve fund for future repairs and maintenance of the new gym.
In the mid-1990’s, HNA undertook a third capital campaign, Secure the Future, which resulted in wonderful enhancements to the school that coincided with the growth of its program and enrollment. The campaign provided funds for extensive building improvements, new science, computer, and art laboratories, classroom renovations, computer networking of the entire school, dome and parlor restoration, and endowment growth.
A fourth capital campaign, Momentum: Advancing the Mission, was launched in fall 2004 and successfully raised over $4.6 million to support the complete replacement and redesign of the roof and cornices on the main building, the construction of a new high-tech music facility, and the strengthening of the endowment.
Today, those entering the Academy will find within the traditional walls an up-to-date, future-oriented academic program and facility. They will find an optimal learning environment in which students succeed wonderfully in all arenas, from an extensive Advanced Placement program, to impressive arts presentations, to spiritual and service commitments, to competitive Metro League sports. The school’s continuing success in enhancing its program and facilities has earned HNA the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon School Award four times since 1985. In 2012, the Academy received first place among nonprofit organizations in Seattle Business magazine’s annual survey of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
Students at Holy Names Academy today inherit the traditions of the past while preparing for success in the contemporary world. They discover that an Academy education includes not only academics and activities but values that have been present from the beginning. What continues to inspire the school community is the guiding vision of Mother Marie Rose as expressed in the Holy Names Academy Mission Statement and as lived out in every aspect of school life.