Mount St. Mary Academy was opened August 15th, 1907 in the Farnsworth mansion, which
had purchased by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan after the pastor of
St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Rev. Timothy Ryan, advised the Dominican order of this fact.
Mother Mary Camillia was impressed enough by the English Manor-style building (which had
already been burnt on the inside and rebuilt) that they purchased it and the land it stood on for $15,000.00.
Five sisters along with Mother Superior Mary Philomena were the first faculty
members for a group of six female students that were boarders during that first school
year, while boys and girls were accepted as day students. Grade and high school
students attended the school, which also had a greenhouse, barn, and windmill on the grounds along with a
farm for chickens and cows across the road.
The school added a building onto the Farnsworth mansion in 1910 with the Philomena building,
then purchased land across from the Academy to create Jeanne D'Arc Athletic Field.
Another addition took place in 1925 when a Gothic-style addition called the St.
Augustine building was opened for administrative offices and classrooms, but
by 1933, the Dominican sisters decided to end the grade school in order to concentrate on
the all-girls' high school.
students took courses from a wide selection of curriculum that included foreign languages,
mathematics, sciences, typing, home ec, and physical education. The school faced a financial crisis in the late 1960's
and early 1970's, and it was decided to close the school following the graduation
of 110 students in the spring of 1972.
did not stay vacant for long as the Lutheran High School Association of Greater Chicago purchased
the property in September 1972 to became the home of Valley Lutheran High School. That school stayed open until 1991 when it closed; however, it has since re-opened in nearby Elgin.
As for the former Farnsworth mansion and remaining buildings, they were razed
in 1997, but the stones from the exterior of the mansion were retrieved in the hope that
a replica of The Woodlawns could be reassembled in St. Charles in the future.
George Fornero provides some more facts about St. Mary Academy:
A. Enrollment in 1963-1964 was 210 girls with 13 Adrian Dominican Sisters and two (2) lay teachers;
in 1966-67 was 205 girls with 13 Sisters and three (3) lay teachers.
at the time of the school’s closing in 1972 was 147 students. Many of the girls transferred
to Rosary High School in Aurora, IL.