Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy

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Mount Saint Mary's Academy and Convent
Mount St. Mary's Academy (Grass Valley, CA).jpg
Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy is located in California
Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy
Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy is located in the US
Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy
Location 410 South Church Street
Grass Valley, California
Coordinates 39°12′53″N 121°4′3″W / 39.21472°N 121.06750°W / 39.21472; -121.06750Coordinates: 39°12′53″N 121°4′3″W / 39.21472°N 121.06750°W / 39.21472; -121.06750
Built 1865 or 1866
Architectural style Gothic Revival-Renaissance Revival-Georgian Revival-Victorian
NRHP Reference # 74000543
CHISL # 855
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 3, 1974[1]
Designated CHISL 1972-04-24

Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy, originally the Sacred Heart Convent and Holy Angels Orphanage and previously Mount St. Mary’s Convent and Orphan Asylum, and also known as Mount Saint Mary's Academy and Convent, is the only extant original orphanage in California and commemorates the Sisters of Mercy, in Grass Valley, Nevada County, California.[2][3]

The Gothic Revival Style Victorian building with Georgian Revival accents currently houses the Grass Valley Museum, at 410 South Church Street between Chapel and Dalton Streets, Grass Valley.[4][5]


Katherine Russell (sister of Charles Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen and better known as Mother Mary Baptist Russell, or simply "Mother Baptist") arrived in San Francisco with seven other Sisters of Mercy on 1854-12-08[6] from Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland; other Sisters followed.[7] On 1863-08-20, spearheaded by vicar-general Father Thomas Dalton,[8] five Sisters, including Mother Baptist,[9] arrived in Grass Valley to help the California Gold Rush miners' orphans. Bishop Eugene O’Connell placed the cornerstone for the convent/orphanage building on Sunday, 1865-05-02. The Sisters moved in on 1866-03-20, and the first orphans were taken in on 1866-04-02.[3]

The orphanage closed in 1932 and the facility was de-sanctified in 1968. The following year, in 1969, the Grass Valley Historic Preservation Committee began repair and preservation of the building and the Sisters' rose garden.[10] The Foley Library for Historical Research in nearby Nevada City, California retains historical documents for Mount St. Mary's.[11]


The building is three stories tall, and was built at a cost of $19,856, including construction and interior furnishings.

  • First floor - Construction: stone. Use: classrooms, dining room, kitchen, laundry, lavatory, store rooms.
  • Second floor - Construction: brick. Use: chapel, classrooms, library, parlors.
  • Third floor - Construction: brick. Use: dormitories, sleeping quarters, infirmary.

Landmark designation[edit]

This Nevada County building is honored as on the National Register of Historic Places[2] and as California Historical Landmark No. 855, registered in 1972-04-24.[12] The plaque's inscription states:

Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy

Built by Reverend Thomas J. Dalton, the Sacred Heart Convent and Holy Angels Orphanage was dedicated May 2, 1865 by Bishop Eugene O'Connell. Under the Sisters of Mercy, it served from 1866 to 1932 as the first orphanage of the Northern Mines. It functioned as an academy from 1868 to 1965 and as a convent from 1866 to 1968.[12][13]

The plaque was placed on the building on October 28, 1972 by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Women's Progress Commemorative Commission" (PDF). Women's Progress Commemorative Commission, National Park Service. p. 6. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Mount St. Mary's Convent and Orphan Asylum". Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  4. ^ Evans, Ron (September 1998). "A Queen and an Empire". Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  5. ^ "Grass Valley Museum". Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  6. ^ Sly, Julie (2007-10-06). "Sisters of Mercy celebrate 150 years of service in state". Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  7. ^ Sanfilippo, Helena (2003-05-16). "The Sisters of Mercy's California Adventure" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  8. ^ Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic encyclopedia; an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic church. New York: Universal Knowledge Foundation. p. 294. OCLC 6974688. 
  9. ^ Westlund, Nancy (2001-02-03). "Mercy Sisters leaving Grass Valley after 138 years of service". The Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  10. ^ Minch, Patricia L. (2008-06-13). "Secret garden revealed". Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  11. ^ "Interactive Discussions: Nevada County History and Ancestors". Nevada County Historical Society. June 2008. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  12. ^ a b "Mount Saint Mary's Convent and Academy". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  13. ^ "NO. 855 MOUNT SAINT MARY'S CONVENT AND ACADEMY". Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  14. ^ "California Landmark 855". Retrieved 2008-08-01. 

External links[edit]