The Society of the Sacred Heart was founded in 1800 in France to provide quality education for young women. Their first school in New Orleans – Mater Admirabilis – opened in 1867 at 824 Dumaine St. in the French Quarter. Attendance grew so rapidly that the order began looking for a second property Uptown.

The John Calhoun-S. J. Peters mansion and orange plantation, built in 1847 and located on two city blocks at 4521 St. Charles Ave., was purchased for $35,000 in 1886. The school opened the following year and was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, creating the nickname “The Rosary.” The existing house served as the school until a new building was constructed in 1900. In 1913, a third story was added, used primarily for housing boarding students. That same year the Mater Admirabilis campus in the French Quarter was closed.

Students came to The Rosary from all over the New Orleans area, including the French Quarter, where quality of life was deteriorating with the rise of jazz, prostitution and crime. The school did accept male students (a practice that ended shortly before World War II); and during the earliest years, children of actors were not admitted for fear of immoral influence.

Classes offered were both academic and religious, and a reputation of graduating distinguished young ladies quickly grew. In the 1930s, a strong athletic program was added to the school: basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, hockey, dancing and in ’33, the new practice of “Danish exercises.”

Over the following decades, many additions – a library, cafeteria, more classrooms – were added to the campus, and in 1950, St. Joseph’s Hall was built for the Lower School. In 2002, the school purchased new property at the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon avenues. The Mater Admirabilis Campus, named after the original French Quarter school, opened in 2005 and houses the Preschool and Primary School.