Our legacy began nearly 170 years ago, and we are inspired by the educational legacy and traditions handed down to us by the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters. We are confident that our academic excellence will allow us to continue to serve the Madison community for years to come.
Blessed Samuel Mazzuchelli, O.P., an Italian Catholic missionary, founds the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters. The priest serves both the Native Americans and settlers, founding—and in some cases designing and building—village churches. His mission takes him from the north shore of Lake Michigan through the Fox and Wisconsin Mississippi river valleys.
Samuel Marshall of Marshall & Ilsley Bank (later M&I and BMO Harris) purchases the farmland on which Edgewood now sits. When the Marshalls move to Milwaukee, they sell the property to Governor Cadwallader Washburn, who names it Edgewood Villa and uses it as his country house. Edgewood is a working farm at the time and is far enough out in the country that it does not receive postal delivery. Residents must pick up mail in town. Marshall’s carriage house still exists on campus and is currently an Edgewood dorm.
The Sinsinawa Dominican sisters found St. Regina Academy in Madison, a school for both boarding girls and non-boarding boys and girls, near the Capitol at the corner of West Washington and South Henry. The sisters offer all basic subjects plus three languages and vocal, instrumental, and visual arts. In the original advertisements for the school, students of all faiths are welcomed. The building, which was across from St. Raphael’s Cathedral, no longer exists.
After losing re-election, Governor Washburn moves to Minneapolis where his businesses grow to include flour mills, eventually becoming General Mills. He donates his lakeside estate to the sisters for use as a convent and school for girls. The sisters take in and educate both paying boarders and orphaned girls in need, who they house in the villa.
The villa burns in a tragic fire; three students sleeping on the third floor die. A sister is hospitalized after trying in vain to save them. Less than a year later, the school is rebuilt and reopens under a new name, Sacred Heart Academy at Edgewood. Ads proclaim, “The position of the Academy, aside from the beauty...of the location, assures perfect healthfulness. Its graceful, well-wooded slopes afford ample room for outdoor exercise.” This is still true today.
At the request of the growing number of the city’s Catholic parishes and parents, boys are admitted. Junior college courses are now offered for girls. In 1927, Albert Kelsey, grandson of Governor Washburn, designs the original building of the current facilities. The previous building continues to be used as a convent and classrooms, with the Edgewood campus serving students of all ages.
Coach Earl J. Wilke organizes the Athletic Club and remains at Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart where he builds the sports program for 50 years. During the Depression, benefactor and FDR cabinet member Leo T. Crowley purchases one lot on the southeast corner of the property. The proceeds go to pay the bills. Over the years, the working farm operations on the Edgewood property slowly cease. The last cows are sold in the 1930s.
Nadia Boulanger performs one of composer Igor Stravinsky’s works in a recital at which he is present. Music teacher Sr. Edmund Blackwell had studied under Boulanger and Stravinsky in Paris. Helen Hayes is also a frequent visitor to campus during the 1940s and 50s; she comes to visit Sr. Marie Aileen Klein, who had been her teacher at another school.
The younger students move into a new facility, Edgewood Campus Grade School, and Edgewood College moves into its own new buildings. During the next 50 years, the high school adds classrooms, a larger cafeteria, a track and field, two gyms, a swimming pool and, most recently in the late 1990s, the jointly-used Sonderegger Science Center.
Kathleen O’Connell, O.P. begins her 29-year tenure as principal. After 1984, O’Connell continues to serve on the Board of Trustees until her death in 2000. Before the tenure of Sr. Kathleen, the Sinsinawa Dominicans had allowed sisters to serve as principal for no more than six years. However, the ever-growing school at this point requires consistent leadership, and Sr. Kathleen became the beloved “heart of EHS.”
“The Rock” makes its appearance on the EHS campus. It is unearthed during construction of a 1967 addition that makes room for the incoming generation of Baby Boomers. The Rock quickly becomes an outlet for student spirit, trumpeting events like homecoming, championships and graduation, or even remembering a beloved teacher who has died, like science teacher Joe Zaiman (March 2004).
The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa sponsor 11 educational institutions that serve students from kindergarten through graduate school, as well as a girls’ camp and women’s transitional housing.