Providence Academy and Providence Central High School

Providence Academy was a Roman Catholic school for girls operated by the Sisters of Divine Providence in Alexandria on Elliott Street, between 21st Street and Chester Street, from 1914 - 1968.

St. Francis Xavier Academy

The enlarged and renovated St. Francis Xavier Academy, 1907, Fourth Street, Alexandria, LouisianaSt. Francis Xavier Academy on Fourth Street

In 1884, Father L. Menard became the eleventh pastor of St. Francis Xavier Commercial College Catholic Church. On October 10, 1892, the works and prayers of Father Menard became a reality with the construction of the first school for boys in Alexandria. It was located on Second and Ogden Streets and was named the St. Francis Xavier Commercial College. In 1903, the school was rebuilt on the corner of Fourth and Beauregard Streets, next to the present St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. In 1915, the school was raised ten feet to provide a third floor and additional floor space to handle the increased enrollment.

Father Menard was also responsible for bringing the Sisters of Divine Providence and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart to Alexandria. The sisters taught at the St. Francis Xavier Girls Academy, founded in 1894, and later at Providence Academy, Providence Central, and currently at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Elementary School. The Brothers taught at the Commercial College and later at Menard Memorial High School.

St. Francis Xavier Academy, built in 1897, was located on Fourth Street in downtown Alexandria, adjacent to St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. It was remodeled and enlarged in 1907.

Providence Academy is Built and Opened

Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana, as seen in this historic postcard circa 1925 Providence Academy
(historic postcard circa 1925)

In 1914, St. Francis Xavier Academy became Providence Academy for girls and opened in a new four-story building on the corner of Elliott and Chester Streets. The building sat on a 6-acre plot, and cost $25,000 to construct. Building dedication was in November, 1914.

Providence started its 56-year career as an elementary-secondary school with an enrollment in its first year of 40 elementary and 29 high school pupils. The elementary school was always co-ed, but the high school wa limited to girls from the beginning. With its first year enrollment of 69 students, of who 23 were boarders, Providence was staffed by eleven Sisters.

Providence Academy was accredited in 1919, its 6th year of operation, by the State Board of Education while Sister Blandina was still its first principal. And that year the first alumnae association was formed. Msgr. L. Menard was chaplain from 1922 until his death in 1930.

Providence Central High

Providence Central High School graduation invitation, 1964, Alexandria, Louisiana Providence Central High School
(graduation invitation, circa 1964)

St. Francis High School and Providence consolidated in 1949 into what was renamed Providence Central High School, serving only girls in grades 9 - 12. By 1951 the building was bursting at the seams with 687 elementary and secondary students.

The elementary grades 1 - 8 left the building in 1952 to enter the newly constructed Our Lady of Prompt Succor School, and Providence transitioned to an all-girls high school. The enrollment in 1963-64 reached an all time high with 357 girls.

The school campus expanded over time from the original building to include a gymnasium, a home economics wing and additional classrooms. It also offered a "canteen", up a series of concrete steps, operated during recess and at other times, frequented by students from the nearby Prompt Succor school.

The Demise and Destruction of Providence

The old school building and the land it sat on were sold to Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish when the new co-ed Holy Savior Menard Central High School was built in 1967.

At the same time, the old Menard Memorial High School on Elliott Street was closed and also merged into the new co-ed school.

The Final Providence Homecoming

Seen Attending the Last Providence Homecoming - May 5, 1971, Alexandria, Louisiana Attending Last Providence Homecoming - (May 1, 1971)

With Prompt Succor planning a demolition of the school, a final Providence homecoming was held on May 1, 1971, in the school's gymnasium. Dr. Barbara Cicardo emceed a brief program featuring a short address by Bishop Charles P. Greco.

The event was attended by over 800 former students of Providence (see newspaper clippings below). In addition to the students, a number of Sisters of Divine Providence, the order which had staffed the school for 56 years, were in attendance, including Sister Rose Annelle, Sister Lucille Gravel, Sister Angelena Murphy, and Sister Chrysantha Howard (a member of the school's first graduating class in 1915).

The building was demolished during the summer of 1971, and replaced by a new church for Our Lady of Prompt Succor parish in 1974.

The Statue of the Guardian Angel, which graced the front yard of Providence for decades, eventually was placed in front of the new Prompt Succor Church.

Photos and Images from Providence Past - St. Francis Xavier Academy

The original St. Francis Xavier Academy, built in 1897
The original St. Francis Xavier Academy, built in 1897, in Alexandria Louisiana
The enlarged and renovated St. Francis Xavier Academy, 1907
The enlarged and renovated St. Francis Xavier Academy, 1907, Fourth Street, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex Historical Marker, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex Historical Marker, Alexandria, Louisiana - When Poste du Rapides was established in Pineville the Catholic mission of St. Louis des Apalachees was founded. Mass was said in private homes in the new town of Alexandria. A chapel built in 1817 was the first church of any denomination in this city. St. Francis Xavier Church was built in 1834 on Front Street. Rev. Leonard Menard envisioned a larger place of worship. The cornerstone of the present edifice was laid on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, December 3, 1895. A few weeks later the original church burned. The first Mass was celebrated in this Gothic Revival structure November 27, 1899. Sand for mortar was dug from the Red River bed and floors of native pine were laid. In 1907 the belfry was added: the clock installed the following year. The Rectory, first built in 1896, was extensively renovated in 1930. St. Francis Xavier Academy, erected in 1897, was remodeled and enlarged in 1907. Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven petitioned Rome to transfer the See city from Natchitoches to centrally located Alexandria. Thus, on August 6, 1910, St. Francis Xavier Church became the Cathedral. These 3 buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Cathedral complex.

Photos and Images of Providence Academy

Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana
(original postcard circa 1925, from the archives of the author)
Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana, as seen in this historic postcard circa 1925

Program for Providence Academy plays presented
on May 7,1926 at Victory Place, Alexandria, LA:
"The Quest of the Pink Parasol" and "The Land of Dolls"

Program for Providence Academy plays presented on May 7,1926 at Victory Place, Alexandria, LA: "The Quest of the Pink Parasol" and "The Land of Dolls"
Admission ticket to a play presented by students of Providence Academy,
February 20, 1928: "Sunshine and Spring Glow"
Admission ticket to a play presented by students of Providence Academy, February 20, 1928: "Sunshine and Spring Glow" , Alexandria, Louisiana
Newspaper clippings from the 1920s about Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana
Newspaper clippings from the 1920s about Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana
Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1943
Providence Academy, Alexandria, Louisiana, circa 1943

Photos and Images of Providence Central High School

Providence Central High School invitation, circa 1960s
Providence Central High School invitation, circa 1960s, Alexandria, Louisiana
Providence Central High School graduation invitation, 1964

Providence Central High School graduation invitation, 1964, Alexandria, Louisiana

Providence Central High School graduation invitation, 1964, Alexandria, Louisiana

Program for Providence Central High Senior Class Night, May 19, 1964
Program for Providence Central High Senior Class Night, May 19, 1964, Alexandria, Louisiana

Photos and Clippings from the Last Providence Homecoming in 1971

Providence ... School Bell to Ring Last Time - April 29, 1971
Providence ... School Bell to Ring Last Time - April 29, 1971, Alexandria, Louisiana
One Last Homecoming for Providence Grads - by Sister Angelina Murphy
One Last Homecoming for Providence Grads - by Sister Angelina Murphy
Seen Attending the Last Providence Homecoming - May 5, 1971
Seen Attending the Last Providence Homecoming - May 5, 1971, Alexandria, Louisiana
Over 800 Providence alumnae in Alexandria for Last Homecoming - May 1, 1971
Over 800 Providence alumnae in Alexandria for Last Homecoming - May 1, 1971, Alexandria, Louisiana
Where is the Providence Guardian Angel Going?
Where is the Providence Guardian Angel Going? Alexandria, Louisiana
Lonely Guardian Angel at Providence Academy, Alexandria, LA, after demolition of the school
Lonely Guardian Angel at Providence Academy, Alexandria, LA, after demolition of the school

Links and Resources

If you have any photos or memorabilia about Providence to share, please email them to photos@alexandria-louisiana.com, along with a brief explanation: where, when, who, etc.