Our 150+ Year History
Founded in 1865 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart Heart Academy Bryn Mawr traces its roots to 1865, when Bishop James Wood, who in 1875 would go on to become the first archbishop of Philadelphia, petitioned the religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart - who operated schools worldwide - to open a school for, "Catholic young ladies," in the city of Philadelphia.
Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress and Superior General of the Society, who was later canonized, gave the institution her blessing. In 1865, the Society of the Sacred Heart founded The Philadelphia Day School of the Sacred Heart in a rented house in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, the school moved to the Edwards House at 1334 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The school remained on Walnut Street until 1886, when it moved to a newly-constructed building at 1819 Arch Street, and was renamed Convent of the Sacred Heart.
The school remained at Arch Street until 1924, when it moved to its Overbrook campus at the corner of City Line Avenue and Haverford Road. In 1969, the Religious of the Sacred Heart found it necessary to discontinue operations in Philadelphia and to close “Overbrook.” Interested parents, alumnae, and staff successfully petitioned the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Superior General of the Society to continue Sacred Heart education under a lay board and faculty. Since that time the school has operated under the administration of the Country Day School at Overbrook foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation.
In 1978, the school moved to Hillbrook House, a sixteen-acre estate in Bryn Mawr, once owned by the Blabon-Dixon family. The new campus consisted of a Tudor Mansion, built in 1908, and a red brick building known as the School House. In 1982, the Marie Cornelia Dooley Building was built to house classrooms, laboratories, a multimedia center and a gymnasium.
In 1999, the school was admitted to full membership in the international Network of Sacred Heart Schools, reuniting the school with its roots and strengthening its connection to the sister Sacred Heart schools in North America and in 44 countries around the globe.
Sacred Heart Academy is faithful to the goals of a Sacred Heart education: to produce self-confident women, to provide a challenging intellectual education, to develop a love of God, and to create a desire to help others.
A holistic approach to learning seeks to respond to the academic, aesthetic, athletic, spiritual, social, and emotional needs of each girl with a curriculum well grounded in basic and special courses.
The Sacred Heart academic program is rooted in the liberal arts taught in contemporary ways. It empowers girls to develop their potential as scholars and leaders.
The school is a Catholic school with a tradition of ecumenism, welcoming the enrichment that students, faculty, and parents of all faiths offer. By its religious education program, the school seeks to foster open-mindedness and reverence for differences.
Statement of Religious Policy
SHA is a private, independent school under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The religious traditions, beliefs and practices of students who are not Roman Catholic are appreciated and respected in accord with the spirit of the Vatican Council Declarations on religious freedom, ecumenism and with the relationship of the Church with non-Christian religions. The religious preferences of everyone are respected, but all students are required to attend all religious classes and liturgical celebrations.