The History of Our Lady Academy Catholic High School
Manteno (population 6,414) is located in the lower northeastern portion of Illinois. Manteno sits in the north-central portion of Kankakee County. Interstate Highway 57 passes through the west side of town. Illinois Route 50 passes directly through the heart of town. Manteno is about 10 miles north of the town of Kankakee. The Illinois Central Railroad passes through Manteno. Lake Manteno is located on the city’s north side.
A brief but informative history of the town of Manteno is found at the web address of http://www.manteno.com/history.htm. Briefly, the town name stems from the name of a half-Indian maiden who was one of the early settlers of the area. The area was first settled in 1832 and was organized as a township in 1855.
The history of Our Lady Academy, a catholic high school for girls, was sent to us by our good friend Sherree Benoit. A newspaper article was written on September 30, 2007 in the Manteno Daily Journal by writer Phil Angelo, the paper’s Senior Editor. The article covers the history of the former school and its importance to the area at the time it was open. A summary of that article is as follows:
Our Lady Academy was opened in 1907. It began as a grade school (1-8) which accepted local students and boarding students from the area. An all-girls high school was established in 1919. The school had over 200 students at its highest enrollment, many of whom were from the Chicago area. The school was established by the Sisters, Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary.
The high school closed in 1956. The grade school remained open through 1964. At that time it became the home of St. Joseph parochial school. As St. Joseph, the school closed for good in 1968. The buildings that were a part of the school were razed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Reasons for the school’s closure were cited as rising costs, lowering enrollment, and a lack of nuns to teach.
The following information regarding the school building first known as Our Lady Academy was provided to us by Joe Murphy:
“I grew up directly across the street from “The Academy” as we called it when growing up. The Manteno school district used the building as an elementary school (second and third grades) for a short period in the 70’s. I was the last second grade class in the building (1973-74). It was then used by St. Joseph’s Church for religious education classes on Sunday’s. The main building was razed in 1980.”
Our Lady Academy Catholic High School Quick Facts
Year grade school opened: 1907
Year all-girls HS opened: 1919
Year HS closed: 1956
Year renamed St. Joseph: 1964
Year all classes ceased: 1968
Used as public grade school: 1968 – 1974
School buildings razed: between 1974 and the early 1980s
Athletics: likely not offered as inter-scholastic program while utilized as a