Mount St. Mary's Convent and Orphan Asylum

Mount St. Mary’s Convent and Orphan Asylum is the only extant original orphanage in California. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Grass Valley on August 20 of 1863, to found a branch of their order and to care for and educate orphans whose parents had died from mining accidents or illness. Father Thomas Dalton was the driving force behind the construction of the convent, as he wished to provide a home for those children who might otherwise be abandoned. The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, May 2 of 1865, by Bishop Eugene O’Connell, who dedicated the site as the Sacred Heart Convent and Holy Angels Orphanage. The building was completed and ready for occupancy one year from the time it was started. It was three-stories high, with the first story being made of stone and the other two of brick, and cost $19,856 to construct and furnish. The lower floor held the kitchen, dining room, store rooms, laundry, lavatory, and primary school rooms. The second floor held additional class rooms, the library, parlors, and a Chapel for the Sisters. The third floor was reserved for the children’s dormitories, the Sisters’ sleeping quarters, and the infirmary. The Sisters moved into the new convent on March 20 of 1866, and took in their first orphans, four children of a Sierra County family, on April 2. Another group was taken in a few days later, described as the “four most miserable little creatures, blind and lame and poverty stricken in the extreme.” Before the year was out, the Sisters were watching over seventy children. The building served as an orphanage from 1866 to 1932, as an academy from 1868 to 1965, and as a convent until 1968. It is located on the corner of South Church and Chapel streets.

California Gold Country
Gold Country
Return to Home Page
Malakoff Home