Filed Under Education

Villa Angela, Nottingham

In 1850, a group of Ursuline Sisters came to Cleveland from France and quickly became an essential part of Catholic education across Northern Ohio. In 1874, the Ursulines acquired land in Nottingham Village for a new boarding school to be operated by the nuns. Initially housing girls as Saint Mary School, the program grew to include boys as well with the addition of Saint Joseph Seminary. Although both schools have long been shuttered, the educational spirit of the campus lives on at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland's northeast corner.

In 1850 Bishop Amadeus Rappe traveled to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, to seek aid from his former colleagues for the Cleveland Diocese. He invited the Ursuline nuns to come to Cleveland to initiate efforts to provide education within the diocese. In August 1850, four sisters traveled to Cleveland and assumed residence in the Samuel Cowles House secured by the Bishop near East Fourth Street and Euclid Avenue. By September, a space was opened to board girls and provide a day school. During the ensuing years, the school expanded in enrollment and the nuns required more space to accommodate growth. The Ursulines began staffing parish day schools by 1853 and also ventured to Youngstown, Toledo, and Tiffin, Ohio, creating the parochial school system as the community grew in size. Commercial Cleveland was growing and surrounding the school.

By 1874, reacting to Mother Mary's observations concerning the shrinking downtown facility, Bishop Gilmour determined the conditions on Euclid and Fourth could no longer adequately serve the students, staff, and program. He urged the Sisters to purchase property on the lakeshore in the village of Nottingham, just east of Collamer Village. Thirty-seven acres of property bounded by Euclid Creek to the east was owned by George Gilbert and was for sale. The Bishop originally sought the land as a site for a diocesan seminary but thought again to urge the nuns to consider the property. They toured the beautiful property, buried religious medals at the site, and prayed for a favorable acquisition of the land. Mr. Gilbert met the offer tendered by the Sisters and completed the sale in June 1874. They named the grounds Villa Angela in honor of their foundress Saint Angela Merici. The Ursulines used the next three years to build a residence and a school for girls called St. Mary School and began classes in September 1878 for boarding and day school enrollees.

At the urging of Cleveland’s bishop, the Ursulines opened a school for boys in 1886 on the grounds at Villa Angela. St. Joseph Seminary grew in service to young boys in grades one to eight. In 1892 a new larger building was built to accommodate the boys at St. Joseph; it remained in service until 1946 when a fire destroyed the facility. Interestingly, within five years, the Marionists, a Catholic order of priests and brothers, would open Saint Joseph High School about a mile east of the Villa Angela property on the Lake Erie shore.

Meanwhile, St. Mary remained a popular residence and day school for girls staffed and managed by the Ursulines. The property housed the schools, a convent for the nuns and open orchard property. In 1906 the Humphrey Company (owners of next door neighbor Euclid Beach) bought 11 acres of Villa Angela property. The real estate proved most profitable and provided ongoing financial support for the Ursuline educational efforts in the community. The historical records show St Mary School was renamed Villa Angela Academy in August, 1941 as it transitioned to a four year high school which served girls until its merger in 1990 with St. Joseph High School. Villa Angela - St. Joseph High School serves coeducational classes on the lake shore at East 185th Street.

The original Villa Angela property is currently owned by the City of Cleveland and is the home of the Memorial-Nottingham Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The surrounding grounds make up part of the system of lakeshore parks on Cleveland’s east and west sides. Villa Angela Beach adjoins Euclid Beach Park and Wildwood Park to provide scenic overlooks, a fishing pier, a sandy beach and boat launch access to Lake Erie.

Images

Sketch of Villa Angela Academy
Sketch of Villa Angela Academy Villa Angela Academy (built in 1972) is sketched in the foreground of the older St Mary School in this centennial postcard. Source: The Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Archive
Postcard of Villa Angela
Postcard of Villa Angela The original school for girls on the Villa Angela grounds was called St. Mary School. Source: The Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Archive Date: 1897
Northshore Location, Villa Angela
Northshore Location, Villa Angela This map from 1898 shows the Villa Angela property bounded by Euclid Creek to the east, Euclid Beach Park on the west and Lakeshore Boulevard on the south. The buildings noted on the map include Villa Angela (St Mary) School for girls (labeled as Ursuline Academy) and St. Joseph Seminary (boys). A convent building is also evident. Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections
Postcard: St. Joseph Seminary
Postcard: St. Joseph Seminary The day school for young boys was added in 1886 using an existing building on the grounds to serve elementary age boys from surrounding neighborhoods. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Postcard: View from Campus, Nottingham Convent
Postcard: View from Campus, Nottingham Convent The Ursuline residence on the Villa Angela grounds. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections.
Villa Angela, Nottingham
Villa Angela, Nottingham Looking eastward from Euclid Beach, the main building and convent at Villa Angela are depicted in this postcard. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
St. Joseph Seminary for boys, Villa Angela
St. Joseph Seminary for boys, Villa Angela A view of the school for boys. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Postcard: St. Mary School at Villa Angela
Postcard: St. Mary School at Villa Angela The writer identified the living quarters and classrooms she attended while a student at St. Mary. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1903
Villa Angela Entranceway
Villa Angela Entranceway Source: The Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland Archive
East View of St Mary's Academy, Nottingham
East View of St Mary's Academy, Nottingham Source: Jubilee Date: 1903
St. Joseph Seminary, Villa Angela, Nottingham
St. Joseph Seminary, Villa Angela, Nottingham By 1891, additional space for the boys school was needed. A new structure was built and opened in 1892 on St. Joseph's Day. Source: Jubilee Date: 1903

Location

17109 Lakeshore Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44110 | The original Villa Angela property is currently owned by the City of Cleveland and is the home of the Memorial-Nottingham Branch of the Cleveland Public Library.

Metadata

Jim Lanese, “Villa Angela, Nottingham,” Cleveland Historical, accessed February 29, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/746.