St. Mary's Academy, Austin

By: Marlene Joseph Glade

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

St. Mary's Academy in Austin had its origin in 1874, when the Holy Cross Sisters answered a plea from the pastor of St. Mary's Church to assume operation of a parish school that had been run by the Sisters of Divine Providence. The school was a two-room cabin located on the site of the sacristy of the present St. Mary's Cathedral. At first Mother Angela Gillespie, American foundress of the Holy Cross Sisters, and Sister M. Austin did all the teaching and cooking for the school. By 1875 increased enrollment required the construction of a larger building at the same site, and in 1882 the sisters purchased an additional plot of nearby land that had previously been the site of the President's House during the Republic of Texas. On this land, bounded by East Seventh, Brazos, East Eighth, and San Jacinto streets, a new building, four stories high and made of Travis County limestone, was opened in 1885 as a school for girls. A large north wing added in 1901 reflected the gradual increase in enrollment. For over sixty years classes were regularly held in the imposing building, which became a notable landmark in downtown Austin. In 1947, however, the sisters moved the school to a ten-acre plot at Forty-first and Red River streets, formerly the E. H. Perry estate, the central features of which were a large residence of Italian Renaissance design and terraced formal gardens. The old school building downtown, which had been sold, was razed. In September 1968 the school was reorganized as a coeducational institution, and its name was changed to Holy Cross High School. In part this reflected the new needs of the community following the closing of St. Edward's High School for boys (see ST. EDWARD'S UNIVERSITY). Increased financial difficulties forced the closing of the school in 1972, just a few years short of what would have been its hundredth anniversary. Shortly thereafter the buildings and grounds were sold to a syndicate of doctors who, in 1974, resold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Henderson. The new owners purchased the site with the intention of establishing a private, nondenominational, coeducational day school, initially for grades seven through ten or eleven, but eventually through twelve. The new school was chartered as the Christian Academy of Austin, and Charlotte Klein, the last principal at Holy Cross High School, was named principal of the new academy.

Mary Starr Barkley, History of Travis County and Austin, 1839–1899 (Waco: Texian Press, 1963). Centennial Committee on Instruction and Research, Seventy-Three Vital Years: Public Education in Austin, 1881–1954 (Austin Public Schools, 1954).
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Catholic

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Marlene Joseph Glade, “St. Mary's Academy, Austin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995