St. Mary began simply in 1898 in a feed store on Griffith Avenue in Hyde Park. The lower floor was used as a chapel for Mass every Sunday, as well as for meetings and catechism lessons for 80 children. Although the house remains, today it is hard to recognize because of renovations.
This Griffith Avenue location was only temporary. In 1904 a second church was built in the middle of our present parking lot/playground on Shady Lane. When the archbishop ordered the opening of a parish school at St. Mary, pastor Rev. Msgr. Patrick J. Hynes decided to use the church building as a school and promised to erect a larger church as soon as financially possible. In the meantime, the parish built a basement church, which became the superstructure of our present magnificent church.
The first St. Mary Grade School opened in 1908 with 100 pupils and shortly thereafter a high school curriculum was added. (There is a picture of this first school in the school office.) The Sisters of Charity began teaching in our school from the beginning and these dedicated women served as principals until 1973.
The present building of St. Mary Grade School was first built as a coed high school in 1923. Before long (1927) the boys moved to Purcell High School and St. Mary remained an all girls high school until 1964. That year the girls moved to Marian High School (now Springer School) and the grade school quickly and happily expanded into the larger high school building. Classrooms were added to the undercroft of the church at the same time and the original grade school building was demolished.
Eventually classrooms occupied both the undercroft and the former convent, spreading the school’s program into three buildings on the parish campus. Students in every grade crossed the parking lot in all weather to reach the computer lab, art and music, gym, the library, and cafeteria.
With the goal of developing space for parish programs to take place during the day, the St. Mary community launched a $3 million expansion of the main school and major renovation of the undercroft in 1999. That construction, completed in 2000, brought all school programs “under one roof” and greatly enhanced gathering and worship areas for the parish. The convent was converted to offices, counseling and meeting rooms for the parish staff. In addition to allowing for installation of the latest computer technology, the new buildings were designed to be physically accessible to everyone as well as adaptable for future educational needs.