Villa Cabrini Academy, Burbank

Joan Feeney, <a href=

malady a 15-year-old sophomore at Villa Cabrini Academy with Rev. Mother Eulalia M.S.C. Superior, November 4,1960. Photo by Gordon Dean. Order #00108838″ width=”800″ height=”638″ /> Joan Feeney, a 15-year-old sophomore at Villa Cabrini Academy with Rev. Mother Eulalia M.S.C. Superior, November 4,1960. Photo by Gordon Dean. Order #00108838

The Villa Cabrini Academy was a private, Catholic school for girls nestled in the Verdugo foothills in Burbank at 7500 Glenoaks Boulevard. The school was founded by Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini, who was the first naturalized US citizen to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Mother Cabrini established hospitals, orphanages and schools in both her native Italy and in many American cities, including the Regina Coeli Orphanage in downtown Los Angeles. In 1907, she and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Order built a preventorium on the Burbank property for children with tuberculosis. After Mother Cabrini’s death in 1917, the Sisters continued to develop the site, creating a boarding school and a summer retreat for orphans during the depression era. The Academy was built in 1944, which expanded into an elementary and secondary school with 22 buildings on a 30- acre campus.

Partial view of the Villa Cabrini Academy, June 6, 1947. Order #00108835

Partial view of the Villa Cabrini Academy, June 6, 1947. Order #00108835

Below are recently digitized images of Villa Cabrini school life in the 1950s and 60s.

The Villa Cabrini Academy closed in 1970 due to lack of religious personnel to maintain the school. After the closure, California Institute of the Arts rented the facilities as an interim campus before moving to Valencia. The following year, half of the school’s buildings were demolished after they were damaged in the San Fernando earthquake. The school site alternated between vacancy and neglect, and occupation by a series of tenants, including the City of Health, the Chiropractic Associated Practices Foundation, and the Lutheran High School of Los Angeles. The former academy is now home to Woodbury University, which purchased the property in 1987. Two of the original structures from Villa Cabrini remain. The main chapel was converted to Woodbury’s library. A smaller chapel built by Mother Cabrini in 1917 that became pilgrimage site for members of the Italian American community, was moved to St Francis Xavier Church located at 3801 Scott Avenue in Burbank.

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Closeup of the small chapel built in 1917 at direction of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, then Mother Cabrini, January 31, 1955. Order #00108832

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Photograph caption dated December 5, 1958 reads, “Picture taken during fierce 1955 fire in Burbank foothills shows how close brush blaze came to tiny Burbank chapel.” Order #00108833

 

December 5, 1960 reads, "More than 5,000 faithful climb hill in Burbank in annual pilgrimage to shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini at Villa Cabrini Academy, 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank. Shrine was built at spot where St. Cabrini meditated prior to her death in 1917. She was canonized in 1946. Pilgrimage was sponsored by the Italian Catholic Federation." Jon Woods Order #00108834

Photo by Jon Woods, December 5, 1960 caption reads, “More than 5,000 faithful climb hill in Burbank in annual pilgrimage to shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini at Villa Cabrini Academy, 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank. Shrine was built at spot where St. Cabrini meditated prior to her death in 1917. She was canonized in 1946. Pilgrimage was sponsored by the Italian Catholic Federation.” Order #00108834

 

28 thoughts on “Villa Cabrini Academy, Burbank

  1. Susie

    I went to the Villa from 1st grade graduating in 1964. I have fond memories of the school, nuns, teachers and classmates. I was very fortunate to have such a good education and sorry it is not here today to teach our young children the moral values that were instilled in us at that time. This country so desperately needs God back in our lives and country. God bless the school, nuns and everyone involved!

    Reply
    1. nancy marzo

      Hi, Susie, glad to meet you here! I am Nancy Marzo and I graduated from the Villa in 1949. I was a boarder for 7 years. Have you seen our Villa website, above? we also have a presence on Facebook, Villa Cabrini Burbank.
      Many former students have reconnected with friends from our website and our Facebook presence.

      There is a section on the website, Memories, that might interest you.

      Hope to be seeing you
      Nancy

      Reply
    2. Linda

      Hi Nancy or Anyone From Class of 1964,

      Did you know Anselma & Antoinete (Tony) Dell’Olio? I’m asking because I was adopted and know very little about my birth parents. I have learned their family is on my DNA Chart, with Ancestry.com.

      I’ve learned these sisters went to a boarding school in Burbank and they were raised Catholic. I’m wondering if they went to Villa Cabrini?

      On my birth records it says my biological mother stayed with the Sutton family while carrying me. I’m wondering if this family’s children also went to school with you.

      I was born the summer of 1964. Any information you can share would truly be appreciated.

      Thanks,
      Linda

      Reply
  2. Patricia Higgins Keyes

    Wonderful to reflect on the period of profound inspiration and dedication within our beloved Villa experience!

    Reply
  3. Janis Miron Kraig

    After finishing eight grade at a public school my best friend, Georgia Emslie, talked me onto going to VCA. That was the best move I made. Loved the school and Nuns. I feel blessed that I went to such a great school.

    Janis Miron Kraig

    Reply
  4. Janis@Heart-Filled Moments

    I attended Villa Cabrini from 1952 to 1955 and am so grateful for the spiritual foundation that was ignited here. The nuns were like part of our family going on weekend day-trips with us. This was such a warm and tender environment for me in those young kindergarten through second grade years. I remember making a pilgrimage up to the chapel one day with classmates. I also recall standing with my family on Glenoaks Blvd. during that fire that threatened the chapel on the hill. The fire ringed the chapel but it never burned. Many considered it a miracle.
    It would be wonderful if our children and grandchildren were able to receive the same inspiration, caring, and spiritual experience as we did.

    Reply
  5. Jane Smallin

    I’m confused, are you parish owened or a township? I see that you were incorporated but the residents there still cannot be served by the Burbank post office, but must maintain a po box for their mail.
    are the fire and police from Burbank able to include you, when you need them?
    Jane

    Reply
  6. Lynn (LeRoy) Adams

    I went to Villa Cabrini from 1953 to 1956. Mother Giovanina , Sister Patricia, and Mother Francis were my teachers. I used to walk to school with Joan Feeney and her two sisters, Carol and Mary Anne. I was there in 1955 when that fire came down the hill and we thought we were all going to have to evacuate. It was very scary. I remember when it used to rain, we sometimes couldn’t get to the school from our neighborhood because Glen Oaks Blvd. would flood. I boarded at the dorms for a couple of months after my grandfather died and my mom moved to be with my grandmother. She didn’t want to pull me out so close to semester end. When she came to pick me up, I didn’t want to leave; I wanted to stay at Villa Cabrini.

    Reply
  7. Barbara Neel

    I attended Villa Cabrini in third grade, the 1947/48 school year. I don’t remember the names of friends, but I never forgot how to tie the uniform tie, or marching to the sound of Suza marches every morning, thinking “Be kind to your web footed friends!” I felt a peace being among the eucalyptus trees at recess. And, on the playground, looking at the back of the brick dorms with rugs hanging on the rails of fire escapes, wondering what it was like to live there. But my fondest memory was attending while teenage girls took their final vows after they had their hair cut off, wearing a wedding dress, given a wedding ring, and becoming a widow at once, while we students sang at the ceremony.

    Reply
  8. Karen Stidger

    I boarded at Villa Cabrini in the 3rd grade (1955) and again for part of the 5th grade. Mother Edith was in charge of my dorm. We all had housekeeping jobs and I was assigned latrine duty. She gave me a bucket and an old tuna can to scoop out the water so I could wash the bowl. Linda Lyons was my best friend. Mother Edith took us all on a hike up the tiny chapel on the hill. Later that year, there was a raging fire. Mother Edith woke us in the night and calmly guided us out front to a waiting school bus. The sky was glowing red as we left for another Catholic school where army cots were all set up in the auditorium. We prayed that God would save the little chapel and then we went to sleep. Not a care in the world with Mother Edith watching over her brood.

    Reply
  9. Pamela Kirksey (formerly Storey)

    I went to VCA in 1st grade with Mother John, and then again in grades 7-12, graduating in 1969. My sister, Mary Adele Storey attended with me, but was 2 years ahead of me, may she R.I.P. Mother Mercedes was the Principal, and Judy Brown the P.E. teacher, as well as taught the sciences. I was a cheerleader, and introduced the Spirit Stick to the student body after attending cheerleading camp. I was quite a rebel, but will never forget my almanac mater, the teachers, nuns, and all my friends!

    Reply
    1. Melanie

      I had Mother John for first grade in 1960. I was a boarder and I remember her as a little stern but also kind. She spanked me in front of the class when I wet my pants but I also remember her technique for learning vowels. She had a little record player and played the story of a little girl who copied everything her mother said. One day she heard her mom say, “A e, I o u some sugar.” So cute.

      Reply
  10. Felicita

    I use to be in mother Cabrini offanige when I was like six it was me and my sister margarita it was hard for me to deal with the situation and didn’t know why was me and my sister put in the place by my ant fracisca Lopez I always ask but never got none my name is felicita quintero I remember the place but as years went by the place change a lot it was told to me that mother Cabrini close down..there was a fire there and they had to built that place and now its close..

    Reply
  11. Tecla Jung Legge

    I love finding these memories. Villa Cabrini and the nuns and students filled a huge one-year void in our life around 1955. My sister Barbara and I came as boarders, she in 1st grade, and I in 3rd. Our Mom had TB and was recovering at Maryknoll Sanitorium in Monrovia. Like Karen, I will never forget the wild housekeeping chores assigned by Mother Edita: BonAmi to clean the bathroom mirrors, stringing dirty socks for the massive washers, and I especially remember using the giant rotating floor polisher that turned into a run-amok monster if you ran over the cord! The kind nuns took us to visit our Mom. Afterwards they made us hot milk which we both hated due to the skin, but knew it was a kindness. Mother Frances was a wonderful 3rd grade teacher. And we had so many adventures, including that wild fire that had us all sent to Hill Street Orphanage to share beds with those smart-tough orphan girls – how many of us found ourselves shoved off the bed and onto the floor the next morning! These were perfect adventures for a 9- year old, and are wonderful memories for a 70-year old!

    Reply
  12. Rosemary

    I had a horrible time at Villa Cabrini. I think I was abused. I was so unhappy and scared and became sick and wouldn’t get better so my mother finally took me out of there. I do not have fond memories – very dark memories.

    Reply
    1. Dorothea

      I too had a nightmare experience at Villa capriani. My mom sent me there because she heard the education was excellent from our next door neighbor. I was not Catholic and did not understand any of the rituals that were performed on a daily basis. My first day there I was forced to recite the rosary of which I had no knowledge. Because I could not do so I was forced to stand on my tippy-toes with my nose in a circle at the Blackboard for what seemed hours. My thumb was injured one time when I was sitting on a step and another girl and her saddle shoes crushed it I was sent to the Infirmary and the sister there inform me that I had to wait for treatment to understand the pain of humility. It cost me to never enter a church again in my adult life with any sense of comfort and it ended my desire to know anything about Catholicism. My mother was kind enough to take me out of the school quickly. And I was relieved to learn that it was shut down.

      Reply
  13. I. Martin,cindy

    I loved vca I remember going to the little chapel on the hill. So many good memories and the sisters were so good to me.I went there 1958 to 1964. When I left the school was very hard cause I lost my mother in a horrible fire .after I left I missed the sisters so much like mother John,mother Theresa, mother Bernadette.

    Reply
    1. Melanie

      I remember hikes to the little chapel and the holy feeling. I remember picking what we called time twisters along the way. I used them as sort of a meditation and thought about one saint or another until the little plant stopped twisting in my palm.

      Reply
  14. Michelle

    I attended the boarding school from 1/2 of third through the 5th grade from 1/60-6/62. A fellow student was the granddaughter of Edward G. Robinson. I recall with fondness my 5th Grade teacher. Otherwise, my experience was awful. I was emotionally abused and my father came to pick me up at the end of the school year and found me locked in a small closet that had pipes, dust, and a dingy light. I did not return the following year.

    Reply
  15. Cheryl Wilson

    I went to VCA in 1949 , 2nd grade. Only memory of class was mother Vincent. I was not catholic at the time. Most vivid memory was breakfast in dining room where we were forced to eat oatmeal which I hated, one morning brought a doll to breakfast and sister threw it in corner. One day could not tolerate the oatmeal and threw up. I can’t remember dorm rooms at all. Saw lots of peacocks, swimming classes.
    Not great memories but definitely a memory . Mother Vincent was a very mean women would go down aisles in class, we had to hold hands out and she would hit with a ruler as she walked by.

    Reply
  16. melody

    I was a boarder around 1961 or 62 – I was in the youngest (grade school) section – many memories, started out meeting 2 girls my age while living in manhatten beach ca, they attended school at VCA one sister was my age the sibling was older. They made it sound like so much fun and as i hadn’t many friends the younger one and i became very close- when it was time for them to go back to school after summer i just had to go too.. We got my uniform but not the black and white saddle shoes so there i was in the mornings lined up outside wearing what i call now my black beatle boots actually not a boot but did come up to the bottom of the ankle bone- white socks and uniform. really stood out in the crowd.. I remember one of my duties was sweeping in the cafeteria i was really short and the broom was way too big- i still don’t care for oatmeal and certain colors of melmack bowls send an odd feeling through me? not sure if t is a good memory or bad one..
    The nun in the living quarters was Italian had hairs growing on her chin and barely spoke english. I remember the trouble i got in when i tried to go to the bathroom after we were tucked into bed- I remember the nun grabbing my wash cloth one morning and scrubbing my face her hangnail put a long slit in my face – I think it frightened her she was nice to me for a day. i also remember that the bath day was gross as they would use the same bathwater for more than one child- I had to use the floor polisher once – that was so dangerous for me being so small that after 2 attempts and it crashing into the wall and running down the hall till it came unplugged – they put me on another duty. One time another girl ate almost all of my flavored vitamins as if they were candy – when i got upset and was telling her to stop it- i got in trouble too so we both had to stand in the hallway with our arms out all night- or? until we kept falling asleep and could finally go to our beds. I remember the window above my bed being open on a really cold week and i caught a severe cold.
    The teachers were wonderful ( except the one walking around with the metal ruler who decided that me being left handed was unacceptable ) when i got left there over the weekend sometimes all of the nuns were very nice to me and would take me up to feed the pigs and up to the chapel on the hill. I was only there for 2 terms but never forgot the ups and downs with more good memories than bad.
    The bad thing was the 2 girls I had gone to the school to be with left after i had been there for a month or two so I was friendless for a while…
    I remember learning french at that early age – the teaching nuns had some fantastic effective classes – I just remembered something- one of the girls in my dorm has gone outside the fence? not sure if she was trying to go home or ? I believe she had a bicycle when she left? anyway – something happened to her not sure if she crashed the bike and got hurt or was molested while out there i just know that there were many secrets and she never came back, if i remember correctly her name was franscesca ? anyway-
    so many more memories i could mention but that is enough for now.

    Reply
    1. Melanie

      I boarded during that same time and I remember having to hold the buffer cord for Mother while she made the long halls shine like mirrors.

      Reply
    2. Kate

      I was there in 1950, 1951. Also a boarder, what you have said was about the same conditions in the time I attended. Not so many nice memories.

      Reply
  17. Jacquee Griffiths

    Hi Pamela my name is Jacqueline (Schmidt) Griffiths and believe I attended VAC with your sister Mary . I went there from Kindergarten til I Graduated in1967. I’m sorry your message said she has passed and I will keep her in my prayers.

    Reply
  18. Jacqueline (Schmidt) Griffiths

    Hi Pamela my name is Jacqueline (Schmidt) Griffiths and believe I attended VAC with your sister Mary . I went there from Kindergarten til I Graduated in1967. I’m sorry your message said she has passed and I will keep her in my prayers.

    Reply
  19. Jacqueline (Schmidt) Griffiths

    Hi, my name is Jacqueline F (Schmidt) Griffiths and I went to VAC from Kindergarten til Graduation in 1967. I’m sorry to hear some of you did not have memorable times there! I can’t say I was happy 100 % of the time but when I was corrected it was for something I wasn’t’ t supposed to be DOING!!! Especially when I was with one of my friends , Jean–boy could we get into trouble , her more than myself! I was a good follower! LOL!!! One day we decided to light ALL of the candles in the front of the Altar–no money!! Didn’t know one of my favorite Nuns (can’t remember her name be-we were young) my mom was called! Learned really fast not to get in trouble in school because it was worse when I got home !! Though my parents were fair and very loving !!! I was spanked only three times growing up- 1by mom and 2 by dad. My dad had a different tactic: he would sit us down ( my sister Joanne who was 2 yrs younger than me) and talk to us about what happened and how disappointed he was, etc,etc. For a long time until we or whoever he was talking with And dad would be crying!! Oh, how we would rather been SPANKED. it was worse seeing DAD cry! My memory these dAys drives me nuts but I remember Mother Theresa, Mother John, Mother Mercedes, Mother Frances, Mother Stanislaus-our favorite art teacher who had us teach her how to become a Civilian when she left the order! What a trip!! Through the years I have many memories and friends I miss. Have been able to meet with a couple of special ladies a few months ago at VAC group meeting at the New college that took over our school, Woodburry College. It was even better to get back with Kay (Coughlin)Hubert who was my BFF through school and getting on the better side of things after Jean! Some memories include: hiking up to Mother Cabrini’ s Chapel on the hill and saying the Rosary when we got there or on the way up. The many fires we had along the mountain range and not one touched that Chapel—to all the surprise of the FIRE DEPT–but we KNEW WHY!! The worse part of the hike was going by the pig farm!! Boy did that STINK!!! The assemblies we had EVERY MORNING TO RECITE THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE and MARCHING IN FORMATIONS then going to class. But one thing I will ALWAYS REMEMBER was senior year when they changed calling the nuns Sister instead of Mother. Our Senior class REFUSED AND NEVER DID CALL THEM SISTER. That started for everyone else but not the Seniors until the next class year. I remember the dances, fashion shows, holidays, sports and competition s with other schools in High School and the AWESOME VOLLEYBALL AND BASKETBALL TEAM S WE HAD UNDER JUDY BROWN. The love everyone showed me and my boyfriend Thom Griffiths which I will always cherish. YES I DID MARRY HIM BUT AS A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS (MORMONS), a decision I made with blessings from the Bishop who spoke with our Senior Class before Senior Retreat and support of friends, in and out of school. Well, I better quit for now before I bore you to death!!! Hope you all ate well and doing well.
    Pamela I remember your sister Mary!

    Reply

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