History

For more about our 150 years see our Anniversary website.

The Academy of the Holy Cross has a history that dates back to the days just after the Civil War. The Sisters of the Holy Cross originally came to the Washington area to serve as nurses, however their service as educators is no less auspicious. The Academy of the Holy Cross is among the first of the schools founded by the Sisters.

The Academy draws its heritage from the tree of Blessed Basile Anthoine Marie Moreau, CSC, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. As part of the Holy Cross family that stretches around the world, the Academy participates in many activities that unite all branches on the Holy Cross tree.

Early Years

1910

Massachusetts Avenue

The Academy of the Holy Cross was founded in 1868, with support from St. Matthew’s parish in the District ofColumbia, to promote the education of young women in the ideals expressed by Father Moreau. For the first few years, the Academy’s facilities were temporary and shared with St. Matthew’s parish school. The Academy grew rapidly, but was hampered by lack of money needed to finance a suitable building. By 1877, however, the newly arrived superior, Sister Mary LaSalette, realized that a permanent building able to handle the growing number of students had become essential. Soon a lot adjacent to Thomas Circle, at 1312 Massachusetts Avenue, NW was secured. Students and faculty moved in early in 1879. Holy Cross’s position as a preeminent school for young women in Washington was clear by the mid-1880s, and by that time the Academy had gained a new superior, Sister Mary Angelica. Sister Angelica was to guide Holy Cross for three decades, until well into the Twentieth Century. She oversaw not only the growth and development of the curriculum, but the planning and construction of the Academy’s expansion into a more suitable location on Upton Street, NW, west of Rock Creek Park and one block from Connecticut Avenue. 

Fair Are Thy Towers

Upton Street Campus
and Dunbarton College

In June 1910, the Academy’s new Tudor Gothic brick structure was finished, and housed Holy Cross until the mid-1950s. The school’s operations quickly moved, as the lease on the annex had expired and some students already had to be sent home. The new location was an immediate success, as the number of students returned to normal despite the rather remote (for the time) location. In 1910, Chevy Chase was still a bucolic
land of hills and grass. 

The 1920s brought about exciting events for the Ladies of the Academy. Enrollment was at a record high and the Academy was permitted to operate its own farm. The First Ladies at the White House received both the graduating Classes of 1920 and 1925. Although the Academy felt the effects of the Gr

eat Depression with a reduction in enrollment, the school continued to flourish throughout the 1930s. In 1936, classes in sewing, dance and music were added and the Academy soon had to purchase 20 new pianos. In 1938, the Academy produced eight musicales to ensure each music pupil was given the opportunity to perform.

As the United States entered into World War II, the Academy continued to provide an exemplary education for young women. As many families came to Washington to work in the expanding departments of government, the number of students at the Academy once again increased. Space at Upton Street was also made available to young women who came to Washington as War Workers. While students at the Academy continued their

studies they also assisted with the war effort. The students took a Red Cross first aid course, held a drive to sell defense stamps, collected school supplies for refugee children, and sent Christmas stockings to hospitalized soldiers. As World War II continued, the Academy once again made an investment in the future of the school, purchasing 28 acres of land in Kensington in the summer of 1943.

Once a Holy Cross Girl

Upton Street Campus
and Dunbarton College

In June 1910, the Academy’s new Tudor Gothic brick structure was finished, and housed Holy Cross until the mid-1950s. The school’s operations quickly moved, as the lease on the annex had expired and some students already had to be sent home. The new location was an immediate success, as the number of students returned to normal despite the rather remote (for the time) location. In 1910, Chevy Chase was still a bucolic
land of hills and grass. 

The 1920s brought about exciting events for the Ladies of the Academy. Enrollment was at a record high and the Academy was permitted to operate its own farm. The First Ladies at the White House received both the graduating Classes of 1920 and 1925. Although the Academy felt the effects of the Gr

eat Depression with a reduction in enrollment, the school continued to flourish throughout the 1930s. In 1936, classes in sewing, dance and music were added and the Academy soon had to purchase 20 new pianos. In 1938, the Academy produced eight musicales to ensure each music pupil was given the opportunity to perform.

As the United States entered into World War II, the Academy continued to provide an exemplary education for young women. As many families came to Washington to work in the expanding departments of government, the number of students at the Academy once again increased. Space at Upton Street was also made available to young women who came to Washington as War Workers. While students at the Academy continued their

studies they also assisted with the war effort. The students took a Red Cross first aid course, held a drive to sell defense stamps, collected school supplies for refugee children, and sent Christmas stockings to hospitalized soldiers. As World War II continued, the Academy once again made an investment in the future of the school, purchasing 28 acres of land in Kensington in the summer of 1943.

Always a Holy Cross Girl

The fear of the Academy’s closing dissipated with the appointment of Sister Katherine Kase, C.S.C. as Principal in 1992. In a few short years the Academy recovered from operating “in the red” to a budget solidly “in the black.” In 1998, the Academy received the coveted U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon of Excellence, proving that the decision not to close AHC was a wise one.

With a new financial stability established, Sister Katherine and the Board of Trustees mounted a three million dollar capital campaign, reaching well past the goal to five million dollars. As a result, In November 2001, Holy Cross broke ground for an Arts & Sciences building and Theatre. The addition, which connects to the old building, was opened for the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year. The new wing, which nearly doubles the learning space available for the students, includes classrooms, labs, prep space, a greenhouse, art studios, a dark room, kiln room, rehearsal rooms and a 400-seat Theatre.

The addition of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in 2010 continues the tradition of providing stellar educational opportunities for the students.

In 2015 the Academy installed a synthetic, all-weather turf field for the soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and softball programs, dramatically improving the student experience.

Today, the Academy's focus is technology. With the upgrading of our infrastructure, equipment, networks, web site, etc. we continue our mission of "developing women of courage, compassion and scholarship who responsibly embrace the social, spiritual and intellectual challenges of the world."