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Villa Loretto was large, self-contained institutional building in Peekskill, New York that served as housing and a treatment facility for delinquent girls run by the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Good Shepherd. The treatment of “wayward” girls took the form of vocational training, the arts, and conventional education. Villa Loretto was operational from 1928 until June of 1975 when it was closed due to a change of philosophy which replaced large institutions with smaller facilities that fostered community. Today, this Colonial Revival building functions as a condo complex containing 183 units and was a part of a project implemented in the 1980s by Mayor George E. Pataki to provide housing for middle income families.[1]

Villa Loretto prior to its 1925 expansion.

Villa Loretto prior to its 1925 expansion.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd is a Catholic religious order that was founded in 1835 by Mary Euphrasia Pelletier in France. Their name and mission originates from the parable of the Good Shepard in which they seek out the societal pariahs and try to help them reorient their paths. They developws pioneering programs that stressed education and guidance over condemnation and punishment.[2]The Sisters of the Good Shepherd’s outlook on correction was praised by Theodore Roosevelt when he was the commissioner of the NYPD and Mount Florence and later Villa Loretto, was where teenagers were sent by order of the court system of the City.[3]

            In 1874, The Sisters of the Good Shepherd purchased an estate Mount Florence which served as a convent for sick nuns. Overtime, the convent developed into a residence and school for girls from 12-16 who were considered delinquent.[4]As the school grew, the Sisters purchased the property next to Mount Florence. This additional property would be where Villa Loretto would be erected. In 1925, Villa Loretto was finished following the design of architect Frank J. Murphy. Murphy’s design of the school is in the Colonial Revival style however, on a grander scale. The building is a four story, H-shaped building that overlooks the Hudson Valley. While the residents lacked individual privacy, the furnishing in the dormitory was homelike in order to soften the institutional atmosphere.[5]

            Referrals to the Villa Loretto were by both public and from private agencies. With increasing referrals, admissions requirements were edited to exclude women with an IQ of below 74, violent behavior, or women with psychosis.[6]The goal of this was to admit only those who could benefit from the Sister’s program—a change from their initial policy in which they would care for all. There were other programs available for those who were developmentally delayed, disabled, and/or ill. The school's goal was to aid disadvantaged women and integrating them into society.[7]Overtime, large institutions such as the Villa Loretto began to fall out of favor in the United States. In June of 1975, the school closed down. In 1980, the building was converted into middle income apartments.The building was added to the national registry in 1989. 

[1] Rachelle Garbarine, “Peekskill Condo Project in Final Stage of Revival”, The New York Times, published December 27, 1996, accessed July 16, 2020. 

[2] Gray Williams, “Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County” (Elmsford, New York: Westchester County Historical Society, 2003), 457. 

[3] Katherine E. Conway, In the Footprints of the Good Shepherd: New York, 1857-1907(Boston: Stanbope Press, 1907), 197, accessed by Internet Archive, uploaded June 22, 2006, accessed July 16, 2020. 

[4] Williams, 457. 

[5] Ibid. 

[6] Margaret Regensburg, “The Religious Sisters Of The Good Shepherd And The Professionalization Of Social Work” (Ph.D diss., Stony Brook University, December 2007), 102.

[7] Regensburg, 77.

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