Notre Dame History
Notre Dame High School of West Haven, celebrating over 60 years of Holy Cross education, has a tradition which belies its relatively youthful status. Founded in 1946, the Brothers of Holy Cross felt that a school in the Archdiocese of Hartford would be more desirable than one in the Archdiocese of Boston as originally planned.
A local priest, Father John Heller of St. Boniface Church in New Haven, was told to find a suitable parcel of land for the new school. A wooded hill rising above Campbell Avenue in West Haven was finally chosen. The property, formerly known as the Leopold J. Braun estate, comprised approximately eight acres of land. A large brick building leased to the Harugari Liedertafel Singing Society, a German social club, stood on the face of the hill.
With the help of Fr. Heller, the Brothers of Holy Cross were connected with the Braun Family. The Braun’s were hard-working people, dedicated and devoted to the Catholic Church. This was the driving force behind their gift to Notre Dame. As a result of his honesty and devotion to business, Leo Braun acquired considerable real estate and a legion of friends. He was ever ready to aid the cause of charity.
In May of 1946, the Braun Family sold Harugari Hall and the eight acres of land to the Brothers of Holy Cross for $1.00 – yes, 100 cents. Harugari Hall became the original site of Notre Dame High School and the home to the first Notre Dame class of 100 strong, the Class of 1950. This generous gift and that graduating class are the building blocks of our fine institution.
However, the building required considerable renovation and the Brothers aided the construction workers by knocking out walls and carting away debris. After the reconstruction, Harugari Hall contained five large classrooms, partitioned into many smaller ones including a lab room, a bowling alley, living quarters for the Holy Cross Brothers and a chapel.
Plans for expansion were announced in February, 1947 by Brother John Baptist, C.S.C., the first principal of Notre Dame. The plans called for a school that would accommodate 750 students. The unused portion of the original land was used as an athletic facility and Harugari Hall was turned into a living quarters and chapel for faculty and administrative staff. Upon completion, Notre Dame was one of the most modern facilities in the state.
In 1955 the present gymnasium was added and two years later the east wing with 12 classrooms was completed. During this period the principal of Notre Dame, Brother Donatus Schmitz, c.s.c., purchased several parcels of land surrounding the school. These additions increased the total amount of land to around 10 acres.
The next addition to the school came in 1965 with the dedication and blessing of the west wing. This area included a band room, a storage area and athletic locker rooms. By the mid-70s, it became apparent that the library needed to be modernized. Brother Renatus Foldenauer, C.S.C., provincial of the Eastern Province, dedicated a renovated library in 1977.
During the summer of 1984, the science facilities of Notre Dame underwent a complete modernization, which was made possible, in part, by a generous gift by Dr. Luca Celentano, a prominent New Haven physician.
In conjunction with the school’s 50th Anniversary in 1996-97, Notre Dame successfully completed its first-ever capital campaign. Surpassing its $2.0 million goal, the “Light on the Hill”
Campaign supported endowment for scholarships, technology, fine arts and professional development for faculty and staff. Since then, the Notre Dame Loyalty and Endowment Fund has grown to over $4.4 million as a result of the generosity of many alumni and corporations.
In addition, Notre Dame was wired for Internet access and a partial T-1 line was installed in the summer of 1997. Currently, Notre Dame is completely wireless in addition to hard-wired technology services. Notre Dame has two-networked computer labs, the SNET Technology Classroom and the Microsoft Technology Lab. The library is equipped with laptop computers with wireless Internet access in every classroom and office connected to a vast technology network.
In 1998 Notre Dame announced a new capital campaign — Challenge 2000: A Campaign for Athletics and Physical Education. Phase I was completed in the summer of 1999. In addition to a newly-sodded practice field, an all-weather track was completed with areas for the high jump and long jump. During the summer of 2000, the gymnasium was totally renovated, completing phase II of the Campaign. Phase III was completed when the varsity locker room, weight and training rooms were finished in September of 2003. Previously, the varsity soccer, basketball and baseball as well as physical education locker rooms were completed in the summer of 2002.
Notre Dame is still a dynamic, vibrant institution. With over 11,000 alumni and a current enrollment of approximately 650 students, Notre Dame is well prepared for success in the 21st century.
How? A new trimester academic schedule was implemented in 2006 with great success. In addition to its own curriculum, Notre Dame is the only school in the greater-New Haven area with students participating in the Virtual High School Consortium, in which students can take online classes. Notre Dame students are also required to maintain an electronic portfolio that demonstrates the mastery and diversity of their academic work.
In addition, several of Notre Dame’s math and foreign language classes are accredited as part of the University of Connecticut’s Early College Experience Program allowing Notre Dame students to earn as many as 15 college credits while completing their Notre Dame educational requirements.
Traditionally, more than 97% of our graduates continue their education with 99% of the Classes of 2005-2011 moving on to college. Those students that enter Notre Dame in the near future will see a significant difference in the school building itself. The science rooms were completely updated and modernized in the summer of 2009 as part of the Campaign for Notre Dame, which was announced in the winter of 2007.
The Campaign for Notre Dame will ultimately see Notre Dame have a brand new Auditorium, Media Center, Band Room, Chapel and computer rooms. Construction is underway and scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2012.
Notre Dame certainly has provided its share of memories for thousands of alumni and families across greater-New Haven since 1946. No institution can capably serve so many students in its history without building a strong tradition. The real strength of Notre Dame, however, lies not in its past, but in its shining future and in the people that have made Notre Dame the proud school we have become.