School History

Historical Blog

In honor of OLP's upcoming 135th anniversary on May 10, 2017, Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration and Historian, is bringing you monthly segments of our school's history. Check back the first week of each month for an update or sign up for our monthly enewsletter.

The Early Years

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Early Years of OLP

The Primitive Constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet states that the Congregation is dedicated to “the practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which a woman is capable and which will benefit the … dear neighbor.” Those works of mercy were brought to San Diego in 1882 when four Sisters of St. Joseph arrived on board the steamship Ancon and founded the Academy of Our Lady of Peace.

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New Beginnings at Villa Montemar

The expansion of San Diego at the beginning of the early 20th century prompted the Sisters to seek new property. The Sisters, under the leadership of Sister St. Catherine Beavers, who had returned in 1923 as the Superior, began a search for property appropriately located for another move. Property in the Mission Hills area near Sunset was their first choice, but in September 1924, property at Copley Street and Oregon Street overlooking Mission Valley became available through the Southern Trust Company.

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The Van Druff Family and Their Estate

The Van Druff family began construction at Villa Montemar in May 1916, following their purchase of the property on March 20. Little is known about the Van Druff family (also listed as VanDruff and Vandruff). The two men, Winfield Scott (1852-1922) and Ross Elliot (1878-1966), were geologists from Pennsylvania. Both Winfield and Ross are described by Ross’ daughter, Olive, as being “artistically talented.” They had conducted research two years prior to moving to San Diego for the best topographical areas of San Diego. They were determined to build on one of the highest levels in the city so they had an unobstructed view of the ocean, valley, mesas and mountains.

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Sisters of St. Joseph Obtain Property on Oregon Street

After a night spent in prayer on January 24, 1924, the Sisters were able to obtain the Oregon Street property and on January 25, 1924, the San Diego Union announced the sale of the Van Druff estate to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The property was purchased for $77,500. Plans to expand the school’s capacity began in 1924 and the construction on three new buildings ended in 1927. The first school building on Villa Montemar’s grounds, called Aquinas Hall, contained classroom space for the 250 grammar school and high school students. The second building, St. Margaret’s Hall, was originally utilized as a dormitory for boarders and built at a cost of $50,000. The crown jewel of OLP is the Chapel. The site of innumerable masses, student liturgies, alumnae weddings and baptisms of alumnae children, the Chapel was constructed for just $24,000.

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What's in a Name?

Have you ever wondered how OLP received its name? Mother Agatha Guthrie, who was the Mother Superior of the Order when OLP opened, seemingly named the school when the four Sisters arrived to open OLP in 1882. Our Chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Peace, as well. The moniker of Our Lady of Peace, however, has its origins in past centuries.

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Ada B. Nisbet ’24: The Woman Behind Our Beloved Alma Mater

Each freshman class is taught our alma mater before their first day of classes begin. At the conclusion of major assemblies and OLP events, the student body, faculty and staff stand and sing the alma mater. Reunion classes who have not been on campus for decades still remember the words. On written documents and the banner in the Event Center, the author’s name is given: Ada B. Nisbet ’24. But who is she?

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ)

The CSJ Congregation was founded in Le Puy, France, in 1650, and re-founded as a United States Congregation in Carondelet, Missouri, in 1836. The sponsorship of the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet guides and contributes to all aspects of campus life. Central to this spiritual and philosophical foundation are the school's: dedication to "excellence tempered by gentleness, peace and joy"; focus on service to the "dear neighbor"; commitment to the furthering of social justice in our world; development of a Peace Education curriculum; and the cultivation of leadership skills.

Read About Our CSJ Heritage

Read About Our Academy Sisters

Past Leadership

1882 Mother Ambrosia O’Neill
1884 Mother M. Valeria Bradshaw
1895 Mother Margaret Mary Brady
1900 Mother St. Claire Bresnahan
1906 Mother St. Louis Nugent
1912 Mother St. Catherine Beavers
1917 Mother Margaret Mary Brady
1918 Mother M. Generosa Wall
1923 Mother St. Catherine Beavers
1929 Mother M. Panoratius Wall
1938 Mother M. Generosa Wall
1944 Mother Rosemary Lyons
1947 Mother M. William Flannagan
1953 Sister Aileen Francis Pidge
1959 Sister Evelyn Joseph Flynn
1965 Sister Sheila McCarthy
1971 Sister Marian Donahue
1972 Sister Edward Mary Zerwekh
1982 Sister Dolores Anchondo
2013 Dr. Lauren Lek


1882: Four Sisters found the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, located on Second and G St.

1887: OLP moves to its second location on Third and A St.

1916: Winfield & Ross Van Druff (father & son) begin construction on Property 438-190-02, OLP's present location on Copley and Oregon St.

1917: Preliminary construction is completed for Carondelet, St. Catherine's and St. Cecelia's. Carondelet and St. Catherine's were to be homes for Winfield & Ross while St. Cecelia's was to be a garage with an observatory. They also build a casino, bathing pavilion and swimming pool.

Winfield and Ross soon declare bankruptcy and sell their estate.

1924: The Sisters acquire Villa Montemar and begin construction on three additional buildings

1927: Aquinas Hall, St. Margaret's (now Qualiato Hall), and the Chapel are completed