Our School History


Bishop James J. Hartley
Fourth Bishop of the
Diocese of Columbus

In 1952, enrollment in the first grades of the Catholic elementary schools in the city of Columbus reached the unprecedented number of 1750 pupils which was almost two and one-half times as many as the 740 first grade pupils enrolled in 1940. Showing great concern for the future and following a more detailed study of enrollment trends in both the elementary and secondary schools, Bishop Ready began to plan additional high school facilities. By 1954, the first grade enrollments had soared to 2334 pupils and Bishop Watterson High School, though not complete, opened its doors to 166 ninth grade pupils to relieve the capacity enrollments of other Catholic high schools in the city.

One week later, Bishop Ready announced that the new school would be named in honor of The Most Reverend James J. Hartley, fourth bishop of the Columbus Diocese. He also disclosed that the high school would be dedicated in honor of St. James, patron of the late Bishop Hartley.

While awaiting completion of the building plans, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur—the city's first teaching order of nuns—had agreed to staff the school which would be under diocesan control.

Construction on the new building was formally launched on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1956 when ground-breaking ceremonies were held. The day was very cold with a blanket of snow covering the ground as Bishop Ready turned the first spade of earth. Members of the clergy, school children, and their parents attended the brief but important ceremony.
Bishop Ready made frequent trips to the site to inspect the building progress. At the time of his death on May 2, 1957, the exterior construction work had been completed and the interior work was well underway. Although Bishop Ready did not have the pleasure of seeing his work completed, he had the satisfaction of knowing that the second unit in the high school expansion program was accomplished and that the first class had actually enrolled.

His Excellency, Bishop Edward G. Hettinger, consecrated the altar in the school chapel and offered the first Mass on Wednesday, September 11, 1957. The next day, September 12, the school was officially opened and Bishop Hartley High School welcomed its initial class of 177 ninth grade pupils.

That original class of 177 students, the Class of 1961, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a weekend-long reunion in June 2011.  The class is still very close. Among their fondest memories are the fact that they were responsible for establishing the school's earliest traditions and that they essentially enjoyed senior status every year as the oldest class in the building.