Saint Mary’s School is an independent, all-girls boarding and day school located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Founded in 1842 by Reverend Aldert Smedes, the school is affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Saint Mary’s has continuously operated since its first 13 students, affectionately called “the Original Thirteen,” arrived on campus. Through the years the school has served girls ranging from kindergarten to college aged, with the school most recently transitioning to teaching only grades 9 through 12 in 1998.
Pictured above: Smedes Hall
The Episcopal School of North Carolina, an all-boys school, originally occupied the land where Saint Mary’s is today. At the time, the school was comprised of three buildings. East and West Rock, the first two structures on campus, were built using discarded stone from the North Carolina State Capitol Building. Soon after, a large Grecian brick building (later renamed Smedes Hall) was built between the two Rocks.
In the mid-1830s the Episcopal School of North Carolina closed, providing the ideal location for Reverend Smedes to open his school. The school grew in prestige and size with the years and, by the Civil War, stood as a regional beacon of culture and the arts. In 1855 Richard Upjohn, architect of Trinity Church in New York City, was chosen to design a chapel for the school. Still standing, this chapel is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Saint Mary’s remained open during the Civil War and hosted many members of both the Union and Confederacy seeking sanctuary. In particular, Robert E. Lee’s daughter attended the school and Jefferson Davis’ family stayed on campus during the war. After determining not to burn Raleigh, General Sherman and his army camped on the front lawn of Saint Mary’s where they received food, water, and amicable greetings from the girls. Between 1906-1908 President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter Jessie attended Saint Mary’s as well.
Saint Mary's Today
Today Saint Mary’s 264 students include girls from seven foreign countries and ten different states. The school offers 16 Advanced Placement courses, competes in 11 sports, and boasts an inclusive fine arts program. In addition, the school places a premium on developing leadership skills and building strong connections with faculty, staff, and fellow students.