An increasing Irish-Catholic immigrant population occupying Providence in the 1840s necessitated the need of both a parish and school. Saint Patrick’s Church was established in 1841 and, within two years, the school followed. Opened on November 1, 1843, as a Sunday School, the original building was constructed behind the church and fully furnished at a cost of five hundred dollars.
Soon after construction, the structure went through several changes. In 1845, the building was moved from Smith Street to Davis Street and enlarged to two rooms “capable of containing 300 children each, with yards and outhouses, separate for boys and girls.” In 1848, St. Patrick’s became a day school for 35 boys with tuition at $1 per quarter, followed a few years later by a school for girls run by Sisters of Mercy. By 1871, the original building was replaced with a new structure to meet the demands of the continually growing community.
Built on Davis Street in Providence, this new building, larger than the original to meet expected attendance demands, was a brick structure with eight classrooms and a large hall for school assemblies and parish activities. It served as a Grammar School until 1923 when it became Saint Patrick’s High School. While the school maintained its presence on Davis Street, another change was coming to Saint Patrick’s. Reverend Martin F. Reddy decided that the school needed to once more go back to Smith Street and continue to serve the needs and education of the children. Believing that a modern building, larger and more suitable to the needs of the community and children, was needed, Reverend Reddy moved forward with his plans. After purchasing Jones Lot on Smith Street, the new structure served as an elementary school upon completion in 1928 and continued to educate the children of Smith Hill until the first major significant change in the mid-twentieth century.
In the 1960s, Smith Hill underwent a rapid transformation. Urban redevelopment, the completion of Route 95, and declining populations in the area resulted in diminishing parishioners to Saint Patrick’s Church. Along with these changes, high operating costs, and lack of enrollment the building closed its doors in 1971.
Then, one year later, the school found itself in full operation once again. In collaboration with the Word of God Community, it reopened as Saint Patrick’s Word of God School. As part of the Charismatic Renewal Movement, the Word of God Community held weekly prayer meetings within the community. Students attended day classes, while parents enrolled in an eight-week “Life in the Spirit” seminar to understand the Christian way of life. With these methods in place, Saint Patrick’s reopened, continuing to teach school children over the next thirty years.
In 2003, Saint Patrick’s School experienced another potential closing because of financial problems and declining enrollment. Despite passionate pleas and generous donations, the elementary school closed in 2008 in favor of a Catholic high school. On August 24, 2009, Saint Patrick’s School was changed to Saint Patrick’s Academy, focusing on a high school curriculum with a religious based faith.
Today, the school thrives as it prepares students for college. St. Patrick’s Academy is selective, only accepting 25 freshman every year. Once students are accepted and enrolled, they are provided support as they pursue college. Through the Explore Club, St. Patrick’s students work with Providence College to determine their long-term goals, while parents receive assistance with FAFSA forms. Its graduating class averages fifteen students, all college bound towards promising futures.