Villa de Chantal School
Courtesy of Richard Soseman
The Sisters of the Visitation traveled from Maysville, Kentucky to their new home in
Rock Island, Illinois at the invitation of the first Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, John Lancaster Spalding. Upon their
arrival in 1898, the sisters incorporated a school. According to "The Catholic History of the Tri-Cities" c. 1905, "By its
charter the Academy possesses all the rights and privileges of a collegiate institution." There is no evidence that the nuns
conducted college courses, except for their own sisters in training. From the beginning, though, the sisters conducted a High
School for girls.
Soon after its founding, a suitable building was constructed, atop a Mississippi River
bluff in Rock Island. The aformentioned "Catholic History" says of the property
"It is beautifully situated on an elevation of 165 feet. From this height, with its
rolling hills, its deep ravine, its valleys and thickly wooded slopes, the country can be seen for miles around... Besides
all that is pleasing to the eye, there is sweet music for the ear, here one learns to know the different notes of the birds,
whose beautiful drama of life is as full of the comic, and alas! Of the tragic, too, as the life of man... In the midst of
all this beauty and cheerfulness, is situated the academy, which is grand in architecture, but still holds the appearance
of an artistic and refined home."
The first main building, designed by renowned architect George Stauduhar, was built
in 1901, and the rest of the west complex was built a few years later, in 1907, all in the Late Gothic Revival Style. The
chapel was dedicated in 1908. The Rock Island Argus reported on June 5, 1975 that "by February 1901 the nuns and boarders
had moved into the building. Classes were held for day and boarding students from ages 5 to 18. They learned nursery rhymes,
Spencerian script, elocution, astronomy, calisthenics, and fine arts. They also accepted postulants." In the early 1900's,
120 students were educated there, with 60 being boarding students.
A chaplains bungalow, also designed by Stauduhar, was completed in 1919. In 1929 the
east buildings were constructed, including a school building and gymnasium.
Originally envisioned as a boarding school, the school also came to have many day students.
It remained a girls academy through its entire existence. The boarding of students discontinued in the 1958. The last class
graduated from the Villa de Chantal in 1975, and the school officially closed in 1978. The monastery of sisters closed in
1992, but the building has continued in use, and was given landmark status in 1994. A fire destroyed most of the west complex
on July 13, 2005. Throughout its existence, what was said of the Villa in the "Catholic History" seems to have held true "it
is not conducted on a boarding school plan, but is rather like a home, where all the members of the family live in peace and