History 2018-07-16T20:03:09-05:00

A Brief History of Norwood-Fontbonne Academy


Norwood-Fontbonne Academy has deep roots in the history of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and their desire to creatively foster the formation of young women and men. The Sisters of Saint Joseph arrived in Philadelphia in 1847 and soon had works in various locations including center city Philadelphia, Pottsville PA, and McSherrystown PA. At the urging of Bishop (Saint) John Neumann, they moved their Motherhouse from McSherrystown in August 1858 to Chestnut Hill. In October 1858, they established Mount Saint Joseph Academy, a boarding school for girls located in the Mount Saint Joseph Convent, site of the Monticello estate purchased in 1858 from the Middleton Family. In 1878 young boys were admitted into the newly created St. Joseph’s Seminary for Little Boys, also housed in the convent building. These two schools formed the nucleus for the present Norwood-Fontbonne Academy.

Norwood Academy

In 1919 the Sisters purchased Hillcrest, the estate of Reed A. Morgan (renamed Norwood by a subsequent owner), situated on Germantown Avenue just one-mile south of Mount Saint Joseph Convent. The estate and its outbuildings were reorganized by the Sisters to accommodate 48 boarders, 6 day students, and 9 sisters who formed Norwood Academy for Boys which opened in 1920. The boarding school status was eliminated in 1969.

Fontbonne Academy

During the early 1920s the girls in the elementary level of Mount Saint Joseph Academy were moved to the newly purchased property located at 9001 Germantown Avenue (the Harrison Estate). Named for the French foundress of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Fontbonne Academy for Girls opened in 1924.  In 1945, it was relocated to the mansion on the estate of Barbara Strawbridge Morris (Edge Hill) built in 1853 on the corner of Sunset and Norwood Avenue.  Fontbonne Academy remained open until 1959.  At that time, an addition called “The Postulate “was built next to the Morris mansion and was used as a house of formation and studies for the new Sisters of Saint Joseph.  In 1971 the Sisters decided to return the formation program to Mount Saint Joseph Convent.  At that time, the postulate was renamed Fontbonne Academy and reopened as a girls’ school with the addition of a Montessori preschool program similar to that introduced at Norwood Academy in 1969.  The Strawbridge-Morris mansion was renamed Assumption Hall and now serves as a residence for the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Norwood-Fontbonne Academy

In 1973, Norwood Academy for boys and Fontbonne Academy for girls merged under the leadership of Sister James Anthony (Mary) Scanlon forming one school, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, on two campuses. Since then, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy has enjoyed a continuous expansion of programs and facilities. Program developments have included the addition of Junior Level Montessori for six- to nine-year-olds, and the creation of the Pre-primary, Kindergarten and Primary program along with before – and after-care services, science labs, and Service Learning. These are complemented by multiple co-curricular offerings and intramural and inter-scholastic athletics.

In the year of the merger (1973), a new building on the Norwood Campus provided new upper-grade classrooms, a large gymnasium with locker rooms, small kitchen area, and stage. It was named Sister James Anthony Hall. The new construction in 2006 included the Fontbonne Commons, a multi-purpose building on the Fontbonne Campus, and the addition of the seventh and eighth grade classroom wing in Sister James Anthony Hall.  The gym in the Sister James Anthony Hall was renovated during the 2012-2013 school year.

As Norwood-Fontbonne Academy progresses towards its 100th anniversary year in 2020-2021, the Academy continues to offer all children, three-years-old through eighth graders, an excellence in education which fosters their academic and personal development in a faith-filled environment.

Each day every student is invited anew to live more fully the Vision for an NFA Student:

  • to enjoy learning,
  • to treasure self, others and earth,
  • to live Gospel values, and
  • make reflective choices toward becoming a self-directed person.