Nerinx Hall and Webster University: closer than you might think

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Nerinx Hall and Webster University are undoubtedly two institutions that have anchored the Old Orchard district dating back to the early 1900s. 

Did you know that Nerinx and Webster used to be one school? Many people are unaware of this connection, we would have to go way back to when Webster University was established more than a century ago.         

Nerinx Hall’s main sign, noting an entrance for the school founded in 1924. Photo by Craig Reynolds.

Patrick Giblin, the university’s director of public relations, explains Nerinx Hall used to be part of Webster University. In fact, he notes that when Webster was initially founded in 1915, they planned to build Nerinx with it to be a “feeder school” to the university. 

“Our earliest records show that many of Webster’s professors also taught at Nerinx High School, that we shared buildings together, and that our students in the education program often taught at Nerinx during their senior year as a way to meet state requirements to be a licensed teacher,” Giblin said.

What began as Loretto Academy, an all-girls school established by the Sisters of Loretto in Kansas City, relocated to St. Louis. When the school moved to St. Louis, its named changed from Loretto Academy to Loretto College. 

An original photo of Webster Hall after construction in the early 1900s. Photo contributed by Webster University Archives.

Records from the Webster University Library Archives show that in 1924, the Sisters of Loretto purchased the Lockwood estate and opened Nerinx Hall on that location. They also built a center for the nuns to live in while they taught at Nerinx, or went to school or taught at the college, which was soon renamed Webster College. The college officially became known Webster University almost six decades later, in 1983.

A shared building, the Nerinx Gymnasium, was one of the landmarks on campus. The gym opened to much fanfare in 1947 as a replacement for Webster’s first athletic building and became the center of much activity until a fire ravaged the structure in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 1985.  

“No one was injured in the three-alarm fire, which broke out after 1 a.m. No estimate of damage was available,” according to an account in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Sixty members of the order of Sisters of Loretto, which operates the school, live in a convent and residence about 25 yards from the gymnasium.”

The school is still affiliated with its founders, as noted here on another entrance. Photo by Craig Reynolds.


Fast forward to the present and Nerinx Hall is recognized as one of the top all-girls high schools in St. Louis, with a 100% college acceptance rate. Community service is also made a priority, with the most recent numbers showing students completing more than 20,000 hours of volunteer work between 2018 and 2019.  

Webster University has more than 200,000 alumni across the globe. Last year, the university enrolled more than 6,700 students. In addition to the home campus in Webster Groves, Webster has several campuses worldwide, including Athens, Vienna, the Netherlands and Ghana.

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Kellen Furmaniak
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