Lemont St. James Academy

St. James Academy
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courtesy of Richard Lee & the Lemont Area Historical Society

                                    The History of Lemont St. James Academy

Lemont (population 13,098) is located in far northeastern Illinois in the southwest corner of Cook County, about 25 miles southwest of downtown Chicago on Lemont Road between Interstate Highway 55 and Illinois Route 171. The Des Plaines River and the Sanitary Drainage and Ship Canal both flow to the northwest of town. The Amtrak/Atchison, Topeka, & Sante Fe (ATSF) Railroad has tracks that travel through Lemont as well.

Lemont has a very long and storied history. According to the website address of http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/736.html, the following is a summary of that history:

The area in which Lemont is now located was first settled in the 1830’s. Attempts to build a town in the area occurred in 1836 (Keepataw) and 1839 (Athens).  However, it was the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 that led to the town of Lemont being created. Lemont was officially incorporated as a town in 1876.

St. James Academy was Lemont’s first school that offered secondary education, opening up its doors in 1884. A two-story building made with local limestone was erected for the purpose of housing the classrooms. St. James was cared for by St. Patrick’s Parish in the community, which also led to the school also being referred to as St. Patrick’s by the Diocese of Chicago at the time.

The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, WI were in charge of the school, which graduated its first class in 1893. In 1896, the Rev. Michael O’Sullivan opened a commercial department of the school, and enrollment grew within the year. Those students had their first graduation in 1898 at the Teden Opera house with Circuit Judge John J. Gibbons handing out diplomas to those students.

Even though the enrollment had another jump in 1899, it is believed that the commercial department closed in 1900 when Rev. O’Sullivan was transferred to St. Bridget’s Parish in Chicago, but we are uncertain if the academic department followed suit. The building remains standing in Lemont today, even as students from St. Patrick now attend school with students from St. Alphonsus Parish.


Year opened:                                    1884

Commercial department added:          1896

1st Commercial graduation:                1898

Year commercial dept. closed:           1900


We’d like to offer thanks to the folks at the Lemont Area Historical Society for some of the information & photo from Richard Lee that are listed on this page about St. James’ history, as well as the 1953 dissertation on Catholic secondary education in the Archdiocese of Chicago by St. Mary Innocenta Montay.


is something we say a lot and can get from you if you know more information about the history of Lemont St. James Academy. We welcome your information via email at ihsgdwebsite@comcast.net or by writing us at the following address:


6439 North Neva

Chicago, IL  60631

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