You’ve probably zoomed past the historical marker at the crest of Route 30 across from Wimmerton lots of time, but have you ever wondered what St. Xavier’s Academy was and what happened to it?
When I was younger I passed the sign and the historical marker tons of times, but one time I asked my mom what was back there. She said that there had been a school back there but it burned down years ago. I didn’t give much more thought to it until several years ago when I really started getting into local history (not to mention we had bought a house down St. Xavier Road) that I really began to start wondering about the old school. I wondered where it was located and were there any clues to what was left.
St. Xavier’s was originally started by the Sister’s of Mercy who came to the United States from Ireland in 1843. It is actually the oldest institution of the Sisters of Mercy. Originally started in a small building at St. Vincent, Mount St. Vincent Academy for Young Ladies started in 1945. In 1847 with the help of a donation from a local benefactor, St. Francis Xavier’s Academy was opened.
It operated as an academy for women, run by the Sisters of Mercy, up until 1972 when a large fire destroyed the entire building.
One evening when I was on my way to Walmart I decided to stop at the site and see if I could determine where the old school was located. I had read some conflicting things about where exactly the school was situated so I decided to figure it out for myself. When you leave Route 30, there are two roads. One is St. Xavier Road which has the old convent house, which once welcomed new recruits but is now used for offices, sits. The other was the path that led across the lawn and through the trees to the school itself. This one is gated off.
A remaining vestige of the former school is a statue of the Blessed Mother that stands at the entrance to the driveway. In fact, you can see this exact same statue on the right-hand side in one of my old postcards.
As you can see the path that leads to the school is slowly being taken back over by nature. Cracks are forming in the pavement and the overhang of trees is getting more dense. However, the grounds are very well taken care of. I followed the path through the grove of trees until I got to some benches, a large cluster of shrubs, and a clearing. My intuition told me the clearing was where the school once was since the benches seemed to be undisturbed, but I wasn’t sure.
I happened to notice that inside the large clump of shrubs there seemed to be the pedestal for a statue. The statue had obviously been removed, and the shrubs seemed to have been planted to obscure it.
When I went home I dug out some of my old St. Xavier’s postcards and sure enough, there was a statue with the same sort of pedestal that was once facing the academy. This meant that my suspicions were correct and the statute (which we figured out was one of St. Xavier) had been facing the clearing where the school once stood. You can see the statue on the left of the postcard.
Although there isn’t much to see anymore, the grounds of the former St. Xavier’s academy are still well-maintained and very peaceful. It’s a shame that I never actually got to see the school, but if anyone has any pictures they would like to share, I would love to see them! Also, if anyone knows what happened to the St. Xavier statue I would also be interested in finding out!