As California was under Spanish rule, San Luis Obispo of the 1800’s was a mostly
Spanish speaking area. Even after California’s statehood, the predominantly Spanish
and Mexican population of the area meant that Spanish was the main language in the
county and all county schools taught in Spanish and English.
Don Dolores Herrera (a Spanish American) had 6 daughters and didn't wish to send
them to Santa Barbara for their education. In 1857, he gave some of his land to the
Mission for the purpose of erecting a Convent school.
Unfortunately for Mr. Herrera’s daughters, it wasn't until 1876 that the new school
was built. At the time, the new Academy was the third-most prominent building in
San Luis Obispo with the Mission and Courthouse being the largest.
The 1876 building was a wooden three-story frame structure on a mortared stone
foundation. The building measured 80 x 40 feet. In August of 1876, eight Sisters of
the Order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary arrived by boat and stage from the
Motherhouse at Gilroy. Sister Raymunda Cremadell (a native of Spain) was the Lady
Superior of the school and was assisted by 7 sisters (3 natives of Spain, 2 Americans,
and 2 Irish).
The Sisters equipped the new boarding school with the most modern desks, globes and
maps, linen and food. A Steinway piano was brought from San Francisco and a second
piano was donated. On August 16th, 1876, the school opened with 50 students (12 of
whom were residents). Within 5 months the enrollment had increased to 80 with 40
in residence. The celebration at the end of the first year of operation was attended by
the acting Governor of California.
In 1882, a 90 x 28 foot Chapel wing was added to the school. This wing contained a
large chapel with a 22’ high ceiling, a sick room for aged and infirmed women, and
upstairs dormitory rooms for the Sisters.
In 1886, the secondary school department was closed because the staffing of the new
Cathedral School in Los Angeles required that some of the Sisters leave San Luis
After nearly 50 years of use, the main building was sold for $1 and moved off the lot
to make way for the new “Mission High” which opened its doors to students in 1926.
Although moved, the 1882 Chapel Wing and old dining hall still served as the
Convent until they were destroyed by fire in 1930.
In 2002, construction behind Mission Prep High School in San Luis Obispo uncovered
the remains of 17 historical features dating from the Mission period (1780-1830)
through the 1920's. Archaeological monitoring of the construction managed to record
and recover many of these features, including the intact remains of the 1880
outhouse which served the nuns and students of the Immaculate Heart Academy.
Site maintained as a public service by Archaeological Research, PO Box 1353, Lucerne, CA 95458.
|1876 Immaculate Heart Academy
|History and Prehistory of Lake County