The Sisters of Saint Joseph's First Mission in Watertown, 1882
The Beginning of Catholic Education in Watertown
On December 28, 1880, three Sisters arrived in Watertown from Buffalo with the purpose of opening a Catholic school. The challenges were daunting. The Catholic community in Watertown was staunchly divided between the Irish immigrant and French-Canadian populations. The North Country weather was bitter. On New Year's Day, the Watertown Daily Times published an article reporting that "The year 1880 breathed its last amid a storm of snow and wind, and its fleeting soul was borne away on the wings of a tempest." Finances were also difficult. Nonetheless, five days after their arrival, the Sisters secured a small wooden house at 114 Main Street, which at first served the parishioners of Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish. This small house served as the beginning of Catholic education in Watertown. When finances threatened to close the school, the Sisters continued the school as a private academy known as Immaculate Heart Academy. From the beginning, the school was coeducational. The small house was both convent and school until 1883 when a new school building was erected.
Immaculate Heart Academy on West Main St.
Immaculate Heart Academy Opens
The new school building was ready for students in 1884. Because of decreasing enrollment and financial problems, the school was forced to close in 1896. However, the Sisters of St. Joseph continued the school as a private academy known as Immaculate Heart Academy at 362 West Main Street, for students in grades 9 through 12. Each of the four parishes in Watertown – St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart, Holy Family, and St. Anthony's – also formed their own traditional parish schools, serving children in grades K to 8. From the beginning, Immaculate Heart Academy admitted both boys and girls. In October 1904, IHA received its first charter as an academic school. In 1908, IHA was fully accredited by the University of the State of New York. An ever-growing student body made it necessary to build again, and in 1923, a new addition was ready for classes. By 1954, because of over-crowded conditions, the need for a new building was evident.
Immaculate Heart Continues to Expand
A financial campaign was undertaken throughout the city by the four parishes and groundbreaking ceremonies for the new high school building took place in March 30, 1964. Msgr. Albert Farrell turned the first spadeful of earth. On August 22, 1965, on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the renamed Immaculate Heart Central (IHC) High School was dedicated to Thomas A. Donnellan, then Bishop of the Diocese. The new school opened for classes in September, 1965. The faculty comprised twelve Sisters of St. Joseph, four Religious Teachers Filippini, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Diocesan Priests, and lay teachers.
In 1988, a new athletic field complex was constructed which consists of baseball, softball, and football, soccer, and lacrosse fields. Field lights and a press box and concession stand building were constructed adjacent to the main field area. In 2003, Immaculate Heart Central expanded its educational mission by adding a Junior High School for seventh and eighth graders.
Immaculate Heart Junior/Senior High School today
Immaculate Heart Central Today
Due to financial constraints, all of the local Catholic parish K-8 schools merged to form IHC Elementary School, which is located in the IHC Primary School for grades K-3 and the IHC Intermediate School for grades 4-6. IHC Elementary also includes the St. John Bosco Pre-School program for three and four-year olds. The 7th and 8th grade students joined the high school to form IHC Junior/Senior High School.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, IHC reopened the Sterling Grey Stone building at the Primary Campus on 122 Winthrop Street. The Grey Stone building is main building for our St. John Bosco Preschool program as well as IHC’s Kindergarten classes. Grades 1-6 are located within the “Primary” building which was renamed to IHC’s Elementary Campus to reflect that our elementary grades are now located on one campus. IHC moved grades 4-6 out of the former Intermediate Building located on Massey Street. By the 2019-2020 school year, Immaculate Heart Central School encompasses 3 buildings and 2 campuses to make up one school.
Lucy poses by the Immaculate Heart Primary School on the first day of school