On Monday, September 30, Grosse Pointe Academy students, faculty and staff commemorated 50 years as an educational institution with a tribute to the nuns who established the property as a learning institution over 150 years ago.
The Nuns’ Walk
The school property on 171 Lake Shore Road was the site of the first grand mansion in the Grosse Pointes. In the late 1800s, the Religious of the Sacred Heart, an order of nuns, purchased the property, along with several nearby acres, and in 1855, the Academy of the Sacred Heart opened as a convent and school for girls.
Under the direction of Mother Superior Eugenio Demarquest, their beautiful property eventually included a vegetable garden, chicken house, grape arbor and double line of maple trees, now lovingly called the Nuns’ Walk. This row of trees started at GPA’s main building and extended to Ridge Road. The nuns who lived at the Academy of the Sacred Heart were cloistered, so they could not leave the property. But they could walk up and down the double-lined maple path as they said their daily prayers.
From the Academy of the Sacred Heart to The Grosse Pointe Academy
In 1885, the Academy of the Sacred Heart opened as a convent and school for girls. Today, this structure is referred to as the Lake Shore Building. By 1969, the school had gone through many changes, including building renovations and additions. In January, an announcement was made that the school was closing, and a group of concerned parents formed a committee to save the school and keep it open. On September 3, 1969, The Grosse Pointe Academy opened its doors as a coeducational independent day school. (To read more about how The Grosse Pointe Academy came to be, CLICK HERE.)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Grosse Pointe Academy. On the morning of Monday, September 30, to commemorate the occasion and to celebrate the dedication and vision of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, GPA students and faculty in grades 1 – 8 gathered for chapel service, where speaker Debby Wolney, former GPA faculty member, past parent, Alumni Board Member and current grandparent, gave a brief history of the school and the Nuns’ Walk.
Immediately following chapel assembly, students, faculty and staff walked through the hall of the main school building, down the front steps and through the remaining double lined row of maple trees that mark the original Nuns’ Walk. They were joined by students and faculty from the school’s Montessori Early School, who followed behind. With the assistance of Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety police officers, the group crossed Grosse Pointe Boulevard and down Kenwood Road, then turned around and walked back to campus, where they were treated to a shortbread cookie snack, another tradition handed down by the Religious nuns.
The commemorative walk marks the start of a full week of 50th anniversary festivities, including Spirit Night on Wednesday, October 2 and a cocktail party celebration on Friday, October 4.