St. Mary’s Academy proud heritage of academic excellence began on Prince Street in 1869. Within a year, 86 students were enrolled at the school, which was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Over the next several decades, its reputation spread and its enrollment grew. In 1913, Mother Vincentian, CSC, was appointed principal of her alma mater. During her tenure, she erased the school debt, improved the school plant, began an affiliation with Catholic University, received Virginia accreditation, and increased enrollment.
During WWII, the government needed the Prince Street property for a nurses’ training center, which forced St. Mary’s to move to Mt. Ida on Russell Road (the former estate of state Senator Floyd King). While the school was being built, the Baptist church across the street was used for classes. The land on which the white house, which served as the sister's convent, and school stood extended to the Potomac River. It was originally part of a land grant that the king of England had given Captain Joseph Alexander, the city’s founder. Bishop Peter Ireton of the Diocese of Richmond officiated at its dedication.
In 1964, Bishop Ireton opened its doors to students and it was staffed by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Over the years, the two schools frequently participated in sports, school clubs, and extracurricular activities together. For instance, the girls from St. Mary’s joined Gar Whaley’s band and wind ensemble, and the boys came to St. Mary’s to participate in Sister Rose Anthony’s choral group.
Due to the sisters going into more diversified ministries, and because the building failed to adequately meet current trends in education and athletics, St. Mary’s Academy reluctantly closed its doors in 1990. Father Joseph Metzger, OSFS, Marguerite Scafati and Sr. Anne Mae Golden, CSC, skillfully facilitated the transition, and the SMA students were welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm by the Ireton community. That spirit of collaboration still exists today among the many graduates of St. Mary’s Academy, many of whom are current parents of Bishop Ireton students.