Does the featured image in our gallery look almost familiar?
While it might look like Salem State University's South campus, the image is actually a postcard from the early 1960s of the proposed Ste. Chretienne Academy that opened in 1963 as an all-girls high school. This was an expansion for the Sisters of Ste. Chretienne, which had been providing services in Salem since 1903.
The Sisters of Ste. Chretienne came to Salem to replace the Grey Nuns of Montreal who were no longer able to service St. Joseph's School. They lived on Harbor Street at their Convent-Noviate near the school and St. Joseph's Church.
In 1914, the Great Fire of Salem destroyed those buildings. After living in a borrowed home, the sisters purchased the Loring Mansion (upper South Campus of SSU). Afterward, it was expanded — a chapel and classroom/bedroom wing were added.
The academy opened in August 1918, and in September, the Influenza Epidemic struck, closing all Salem schools. In response to this devastating flu, the sisters converted their new school into a 60-bed hospital to help care for the 6,000 Salemites needing medical care. So grateful was the city of Salem for this, all water bills from the city were waived in perpetuity.
As their enrollment grew, second and third floors were added in 1951. With increased enrollment and the need for more space, the sisters expanded the Academy adding the pictured High School that had a gym/auditorium, library, chapel and bedroom wing. In 1964, the Harrison Road community opened.
Unfortunately for the sisters, the winds of change were reaching gale force in the church. Throughout the late 1960s, there was a tremendous drop in the numbers of new religious sisters to replenish their aging members. At the same time, there was competition with the Bishop Fenwick High School that opened in 1959 offering a co-ed education.
Bishop Fenwick at the time was the largest parochial high school on the North Shore with enrollment at almost 1,000 students. Ste. Chretienne Academy suffered from lack of enrollment and increased costs which finally resulted in the sale of the Academy to the state in 1971.
In 1972, Salem State College opened its South Campus utilizing all the former Academy buildings. The proceeds from the sale went to build a retirement residence for sisters in Marlboro. It also helped fund new ministries for the younger sisters.