The History of Kankakee St. Joseph’s Academy for Ladies
Kankakee (population 27,491) is located in northeastern Illinois in central Kankakee County. It is the county seat of Kankakee County as well. The town was established in the mid-1800’s and prospered when the Illinois Central Railroad laid tracks through the area. By the year 1900, Kankakee had a population of 13,500, quite large for that time period. The following roadways now lead to and from this busy metropolis: Interstate Highway 57, U.S. Route 45, Illinois Routes 17, 50, 102, 113, and 115. The Kankakee River flows through the middle of town. Three railroad lines also lay tracks which pass through town: The Illinois Central Gulf, the KBSR, and the CR.
Kankakee residents realized very early-on the importance of a good education for their children. The Roman Catholic religion gained great popularity early on as well. This led to the development of a several grade schools in the area.
Among these was the St. Rose Grammar School established in the 1865. Sixty-six students were enrolled when the school opened that year. The school outgrew the small frame house where classes first started & a new three-story school building with room for boarding students along the Kankakee River was ready for occupancy in 1871.
Within a couple of years, the need for higher learning was also realized. St. Rose Grammar School was expanded by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, who taught there to include a high school for young ladies in 1875. They named this school the St. Joseph Seminary.
The Seminary served the community in this capacity for several years. At some point, probably in the early 1900s, the name of the school was changed to the St. Joseph’s Academy for Young Ladies. We know from a newpaper article (The Kankakee Sunday Journal, June 21, 1953) found by Sherree Benoit that St. Joseph’s Academy was still in the education business at that time. Further research by Sherree located the following information:
“An excerpt from the book “Of the People” by Mary Jean Houde and John Klasey.
“The existance of St. Joseph Seminary as a high school ended in its centennial year, 1965, when it merged with the expanded Bishop Martin D. McNamara
The Academy building has been razed. The St. Rose Catholic Church building on the right side of the photo at the top of this page, is still an active building and parish.
St. Joseph’s Academy for Ladies Quick Facts
Year opened: 1875
Year closed: 1965
Athletics likely not offered