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History of Immaculata in Washington, D.C.

outdoor shrine

Outdoor shrine at Immaculata Preparatory School.

The history of the Immaculata campus in Washington, D.C., begins more than 100 years ago.

A school for all ages of girls

In March 1902, the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in Washington, D.C., asked the Sisters of Providence to teach in his parish school and to buy land near the church for an academy. Later, he suggested another property across the street and the purchase was made. At the urging of Cardinal Gibbons, it was to be a “select school” for girls. When it was learned that the Sisters of the Holy Cross were planning a school within a mile, the Sisters of Providence decided to withdraw. However, Cardinal Gibbons asked the Holy Cross Sisters to withdraw instead.

A four-story school was built and named Immaculata Seminary. It was dedicated Sept. 8, 1905, and opened with 18 pupils. In the beginning, the school did not impose age limits, so it included elementary, secondary and postgraduate programs.

Throughout the years

In September 1913, the elementary school moved to Dunblane Hall at the west end of the campus and the postgraduate and secondary departments, while separate, shared the seminary building. The postgraduate department developed into a junior college by 1920 and the original building was enlarged. In 1935, a wing was added to the south side of Dunblane.

As the high school enrollment increased, further building became necessary. In 1955, Marian Hall was built as a dormitory and classroom building for the college. Loretta and Regina halls were also constructed for common use. Before 1957, resident students were accepted in all three schools. The high school became a day school only by 1960. Dunblane stopped accepting resident students the following year.

From 1971 to 1976, a Montessori School under the direction of the Sisters of Providence operated in rooms in Marian Hall. This school paid rent to the college.

In 1973, in response to a petition of Dunblane parents, permission was obtained to renovate Dunblane and build an extension. This construction was completed in 1974.

Name changes

Over time, changes were made to the names of the schools. The school was first incorporated as Immaculata Seminary in 1906. For a time, the college was called Immaculata Junior College. In 1965, three separate corporations were established: Immaculata College of Washington, Immaculata Preparatory School and Immaculata-Dunblane Hall.


Financial necessities resulted in the college closing in 1978. Marian Hall was leased to American University, which became interested in buying the entire property by 1982.

In May 1984, after thorough review of a contingency study for the future care of the Sisters of Providence, the SP Congregation passed a resolution to enter a contract with intention to sell the property to American University. When the announcement was made in October 1984, much protesting ensued. This was a rocky and heartbreaking time for the Sisters of Providence, alumnae, students and parents. Some parents and others formed an organization called Save Immaculata/Dunblane, who sued the Sisters of Providence. The Washington Superior Court decided in favor of the congregation and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision. The group opened a Rockville, Md., school called Immaculata College High School, which operated from 1985 to 1991.

In 1986, the Sisters of Providence closed the elementary and high schools, selling the property to American University. The last graduating class of Immaculata was 1986.

In 2013, American University demolished Regina, Marian and Loretta halls to make way for a new law school. The original 1905 Immaculata building and Dunblane Hall remain and are protected landmarks.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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  1. Avatar Mary Keller OKeefe on February 4, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    Do you have list of college 1959 graduates? Names and addresses so we can Contact?

  2. Avatar Leslie Starns Saunders on August 29, 2020 at 12:25 am

    I graduated from the Jr. College in 1966,and credit the education I received for my life in social services.
    While not a believer in Catholicism, I try to live the morals and ethics learned,and also credit the sisters in deepening my appreciation for the arts.
    The sisters were hard working, thoughtful women. I thank them for all their kindness,humor,and devotion to education.

    • Avatar Eileen M. Flynn on April 22, 2021 at 11:42 am

      As graduates of the college class of ’66 a group of us attempted to locate members of the class for our 50th reunion.. We were unable to find any information for Leslie. If she is at all interested in receiving information
      regarding the class she can contact me.

  3. Avatar Fran Reddick on March 1, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    I am searching for information on a graduate who is now deceased. Are transcripts available for yrs 1957-1962?

    • Amy Miranda Amy Miranda on March 3, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Hi Fran, I have sent your request on to our Archives department. They will be in touch. Take care!

  4. Avatar Gail Provance on September 25, 2022 at 6:48 am

    I was there in 65 any information on Pat Clark? Eileen Flynn I remember you. Gail Kurtz

    • Avatar Patti on January 10, 2024 at 9:54 pm

      I graduated in 1974, Patti Atanasio, Debbie Barry, Maggie Bertoni, we are all still friends and have such fun memories of going there!😊

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