Founded by Colonel Seth Reed , in 1795, the City and County of Erie, Pennsylvania began in what was the disputed Erie Triangle. Today, its the home of the US Brig Niagara, which played a vital role in the Battle of Lake Erie. The History of Erie has played a surprisingly important role in American History, from its Early French Settlement, through the War of 1812, to the conflict that was the Erie Gauge War; into the Twentieth Century and the Era of Prohibition and the Great Depression.
In 1892, Father Thomas Casey saw the need for young ladies to learn refinement and culture along with an opportunity for study and education. In order to fulfill this need, he donated the property for a school to be operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Mother Eugenia Quirk received his donation knowing that Father Casey actually wanted to plan the structure and supervise its building. The grounds were on the edge of the City of Erie covering what today is one city block from West Eighth to Ninth and Liberty to Plum Streets.
Soon the educational institution became known as Villa Maria Academy. It provided a boarding school, day school, music lessons, and private lessons in painting, drawing and languages. When the school first opened, the curriculum included: Latin, English, French, German, polite literature, botany, astronomy, logic, bookkeeping, algebra, plain and fancy sewing, painting, drawing, crayon, music, stenography, telegraphy, typing and obviously religion.
In 1908, Villa Maria Academy had an enrollment of 85 boarders from 15 states and 100 day students. By 1945, the last boarders graduated from Villa Maria Academy, the Academy no longer boarded students.
Villa Maria Academy taught girls of all ages from 1st grade to 12th grade. Classes were held at Villa Maria Motherhouse and Academy building.
In 1953, Mother Aurelia A’ Hearn relocated the high school division to its present location on West Eighth Street. The Elementary division took over some of the space and expanded its curriculum. When the New Villa Maria Academy opened on September 8, 1953, it was staffed by 18 nuns (sisters) and 2 lay women. There were 1,200 Villa Alumnae. The entire West section of the main floor was devoted to facilities for business education. Sisters Brenda Marie, Gertrude Marie, and Blanche were specialists in teaching bookkeeping, typing, stenography, and the use of office equipment.
In 1989, the school became coeducational and soon had financial difficulties. To alleviate its difficulties Villa Maria Academy announced, on January 8, 2009, a merger with Cathedral Preparatory School. A few short years later though, in 2012, Villa Maria Academy would returned to being an all-girls school.