History compiled by Sister Dee Long, OSU
In 1894, two Ursuline Sisters from Louisville, Kentucky came to Paola to investigate the possibility of establishing an Academy and Convent. Originally, the sisters were interested in educating the Indians of Eastern Kansas. By 1894, however, most of the Indians of Miami County were headed in the direction of a reservation in Miami, Oklahoma. Baptist Peoria, the leader of four tribes who had played a part in founding the city of Paola, had already left with his people.
Several towns offered locations for the school to the sisters, but Paola businessmen subscribed the money for the purchase of a tract of land on which to build a school – five acres on East Wea Street. According to the files of the Western Spirit for July 7, 1895, the land was purchased for $500 and donated to the sisters.
J.N.D. Clark of Kansas City, Kansas was commissioned to design the building and John Fordyce of Paola was selected as the general contractor. The cornerstone was laid on September 1, 1895 in the presence of 1000 people. This community interest and participation in the Academy was an important facet of the Ursuline history.
St. Angela’s Hall was finished March 1, 1896 at a total cost of $14,000, and school opened in September, 1896, with four boarders and forty day students in both grade and high school.
By 1904, the original building was fast becoming too small to accommodate the increasing enrollment. An additional three and one-half acres were purchased and that summer a second building was begun. Brescia Hall was built next to and connected to the original building. Built at a cost of $22,000, it housed the chapel, dormitories, a dinning hall and a recreation area. A.B. Anderson of Kansas City, Missouri was the architect.
The next decade marked a steady growth period for the Academy. By 1913, the grounds had been extended to include thirty acres to the south and west of the original plot. $100,000 had been raised for a building to house an auditorium, a music conservatory and more dormitories. The Paola City Council agreed to vacate the public road dividing the grounds and work was started on a third building.
By November, 1916, all work was completed and where once there was a cornfield, St. Ursula’s Auditorium stood the pride not only of the hands that toiled to make it possible and the master builder who had erected it, but of the townspeople of Paola. The building was absolutely fireproof and modern in every way. The auditorium, which occupied the first and second floors, was one of the finest west of the Mississippi River and was unequaled for the beauty and detail of its workmanship. Surrounding the auditorium were the music rooms and on the third floor were the dormitories and private rooms.
The Ursuline Sisters operated the Academy as a grade and high school from 1896 to 1924. At that time the grade school was closed and a junior college curriculum was added. The Ursuline College of Paola was closed in 1957 and in 1971 the high school was also discontinued. In addition to operating the Academy, the sisters also operated Catholic grade and high schools in Eastern Kansas and Oklahoma. At one time there were 150 Ursuline sisters teaching at the Academy and their other parish schools in Kansas City, Wea, and Garnett, Kansas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Sisters have educated over tens of thousands of students in these schools.
Principals of the Academy, 1896 – 1971
Mother Thomas Reichert
Sister Ursula Mertz
Sister Anna Landwher
Sister Bernadette Bryan
Sister Barbara Carlin
Sister Patrice Schmitz
Sister Evangelista Lickteig
Sister Elizabeth Dye
Sister Raymond Dieckman
Enjoy these photographs of Ursuline through the years.