History

Founded in 1881, Convent of the Sacred Heart has challenged each student to grow in mind and spirit for over 135 years – but our history goes back further than that. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat established the first Sacred Heart school in France in 1801; within 50 years, there were two dozen Sacred Heart schools throughout North America. Her vision of empowering each student to maximize her unique potential continues to guide Sacred Heart schools today.

From its inception, Convent of the Sacred Heart was governed by a strong commitment to the education of the whole child, addressing her intellectual, spiritual, social and emotional development. By the 1930s, the school had outgrown its original space on Madison Avenue and 54th Street and moved into the Otto Kahn Mansion on East 91st Street; in the 1940s the Society acquired the building next door, the James Burden Mansion. Since then, the school has been housed in these two beautiful landmarked buildings, which provide an extraordinary learning environment.

Originally run solely by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an order of cloistered nuns, the school began to integrate lay faculty in the 1940s. With the effects of Vatican II, further changes were implemented, including the ending of cloister, the adoption of modern attire in place of the traditional habits, and a growing community of teachers and students that reflected the true diversity of New York City. Understanding the challenge presented by a decrease in the number of vocations, the Society restructured the school in 1976 by appointing a lay Board of Trustees to oversee its operation. The Board continues to adhere to the Society's educational policies and is governed by the Goals & Criteria, the set of principles that express the values, intentions and hopes of the Sacred Heart tradition.

After experiencing tremendous academic progress and growth, the school acquired a new building at 406 East 91st Street. Thanks to an ambitious capital campaign and the generosity of the 91st Street community, the school was able to unveil its new Athletics and Wellness Center in September 2014. With a regulation-size pool, a regulation-size court, and a full floor devoted to health and wellness, the 50,000-square-foot facility marks a new chapter in the school’s history. Enrollment currently stands at 700 young women from the pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The curriculum is recognized for its rigor and depth, and the academic program is accredited by both the National Association of Independent Schools and the New York Association of Independent Schools.

Click here to purchase a copy of Convent of the Sacred Heart: A History in New York City, published in honor of our school's 125th anniversary in 2006.

Madison Avenue Building
Early 20th Century class photo
View from 1 East 91st down 5th Avenue
James Burden Mansion
View up 5th to the mansions
Early 20th Century RSCJ
1946 Basketball Team
Chapel
Early Classroom
Early Students
Courtyard
Park view from the roof
Early classroom in what is now the US Library
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