Academy of the Immaculate Heart
Backstory and Context
During the years right after statehood, education in California was haphazard and unsophisticated. Most public schools covered only the lower grades. Further education could be obtained at a few private institutions in the state, or in other countries.
In San Luis Obispo, the Spanish-American landowner Don Dolores Herrera, was concerned about the education of his six daughters. He wanted them to have a Catholic education, which was available in Santa Barbara. But, he did now want them so far from home. He was motivated to donate land for a convent school.
It was not until the 1870s that a construction fundraising effort was made. The building was finally completed in 1875. The following year, the Academy opened with a staff of eight sisters of the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This order had been established in Spain in 1848 specifically to provide children a Christian education.
The Academy functioned as both a primary and secondary school until 1886, when the secondary program was discontinued, later to be reopened.
In 1925, the building was moved to Broad Street and used as an apartment building and grocery store. It burned down in 1939.
Don Dolores had six daughters whom he did not want to be separated from. In order to keep them close by he decided to build a school. In 1857 he bought a piece of land in the rear of the Old Mission but a generation passed before any steps were taken to establish an institution. In 1872 Rev. Peter Sastre, an energetic Castilian, vigorously inaugurated a campaign for funds to construct a convent and school. In order to attain the money needed for building the school, the Catholic Ladies through many parties. Through fundraising enough money was collected to build the school. Finally in 1875 the construction was completed. It was a three story frame structure, 40 by 80 feet, unpretentious, angular, and away from the main street. On August 2, 1876, eight Sisters of the Immaculate heart of Mary arrived at San Luis Obispo from the Motherhouse at Gilroy California. On August 16, 1876, the new Academy was opened. The school had a staff of four teachers and 50 pupils, 12 of whom were residents. The academy continued to offer both an elementary and secondary education until 1886. In 1925, the school was moved up Broad Street, where it functioned as an apartment building and a grocery store until it burned down in 1939. The new building erected in the place of the Academy of the Immaculate heart is called Old Mission School.
Dan Krieger, “Valley of Bears Welcomes Immaculate heart Sisters,” Times Past (September 6, 1986): Focus-19.
Francis J. Weber, “ Immaculate Heart Sisters,” Mission in the Valley of the Bears a Documentary history of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Pg: 56-59.
Janet Penn Franks, San Luis Obispo a History in Architecture (San Francisco: Arcadia Publishing, 2004). Pg: 16.