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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, Mother Cabrini fulfilled her vision of establishing a “villa on a hill” when she moved her mission from Beacon Hill to the Laurelhurst campus we occupy today. Villa Academy’s historic, brick-clad main buildings were sited at the highest point of a 31-acre property that reaches all the way to the shores of Lake Washington. Designed by celebrated Seattle architect John Graham, and completed in 1924, the structures originally housed an orphanage and elementary school, along with a convent. A gym was added in the late 1950s. The Missionary Sisters closed the orphanage in 1951 and concentrated their energies on the elementary school known as Sacred Heart Villa, which they continued to run themselves until the mid-1970s.

Catholic and Independent

In 1977, the Missionary Sisters announced they would be closing Villa because they could no longer staff the school. A group of parents - now known as the New Founders - developed a plan to secure control of the school. Thanks to their extraordinary leadership the Archdiocese gave its approval for the governance of the school to be turned over to an independent, lay Board of Trustees in 1977. Sacred Heart Villa became Villa Academy and the city’s only Catholic independent preschool through eighth-grade school.

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.