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History and Heritage

Founded by a Saint

Villa Academy traces its roots to 1903 when Mother Cabrini (now St. Frances Xavier Cabrini) and her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart founded their first orphanage and school in Seattle on Beacon Hill.

The Move to Laurelhurst

In 1914, realizing her vision to establish a “villa on a hill”, Mother Cabrini moved her orphanage and school from Beacon Hill to our current Laurelhurst campus. Designed by celebrated Seattle architect John Graham and completed in 1924, Villa's main buildings are sited at the highest point of a 31-acre property that reaches the shores of Lake Washington. After closing the orphanage in the 1950s, the Missionary Sisters operated Sacred Heart Villa, as the elementary school was then known, until the late 1970s.

Independent and Catholic

In 1977, the Missionary Sisters, no longer able to staff the school, announced its closing. A group of parents—now known as the New Founders—developed a plan to assume control and keep it open. Thanks to their extraordinary leadership, in 1977 the Seattle Archdiocese confirmed the newly named Villa Academy's status as an independent school, with governance transferred to an independent, lay Board of Trustees. Today, Villa Academy remains Seattle's only Catholic independent PS through 8th grade school.

The Villa Grotto

Villa’s historic grotto was rebuilt in 2015 by expert stone masons from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Under the direction of Seattle’s master landscape architect, Cameron Scott, approximately twenty stonemasons refined their skills in the art & craft of dry stonewalling in rebuilding our historic grotto.  

Joining Mr. Scott were world-renowned dry stone mason Andrew Loudon of London, England, and Dean McClellan of Toronto, Canada.

Teachers and students regularly use the grotto as an outdoor classroom, spot for quiet reflection, and impromptu outdoor theater.

Main building newly constructed in 1920s

Our Historic Building

Villa's main school building, seen here upon its completion in 1924, was designed by famed Seattle architect, John Graham, Sr. Construction was funded largely by donations from the William Pigott, Patrick Heney, and J.T. Heffernan families.

Mother Cabrini portrait

How Mother Cabrini Inspires Us

Mother Cabrini is an inspiration. What else do you call a woman who traveled the world (at a time when it was almost unheard of for a woman to do so), crossing oceans and mountains time and again, establishing 67 institutions—one for each year of her life? These schools, orphanages, and hospitals spanned 3 continents. A spiritual leader, savvy businesswoman, bold adventurer, devoted humanitarian, and all-around determined individual, Mother Cabrini inspires our present day commitment to service and education with a global perspective. Her shining example fuels our belief that Villa students can and do change the world.