Notre Dame High School is the oldest private secondary school for young women in California. The school is owned by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, a congregation founded by Saint Julie Billiart in Amiens, France, in 1804. The Sisters came to California in 1851 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Joseph Alemany, O.P., Archbishop of San Francisco, to establish in San Jose, then the state capitol, a college, upper and lower residence schools and a high school for day students on extensive property on Santa Clara Street. The location was chosen at the advice of the Jesuit Fathers who had recently opened a school for boys at nearby Mission Santa Clara. Notre Dame opened on August 4, 1851.
In 1923, because of changes in the city and expansion of the educational work of the Sisters, the College of Notre Dame was transferred to the Ralston estate in Belmont on the San Francisco Peninsula. The high school continued on the Santa Clara Street site until 1928, when it was moved to its present location at Second and Reed streets. The nucleus of the new site was the spacious home that the Honorable and Mrs. Myles P. O'Connor had given to the Sisters in 1898. With the addition of the administration and music wings, this new site provided ample space for the students, so the property on Santa Clara Street was sold.
Thirty years of continuous growth in student population necessitated the expansion of the school facilities in 1958. Construction was begun on two buildings: Julie Billiart Hall, a multi-purpose structure serving as auditorium, cafeteria and gymnasium; and Madonna Hall, a two-story classroom building. Over the years, the growing student population led to the renovation of Julie Billiart Hall, the addition of computer and photography labs, the use of O'Connor Mansion for offices and classrooms, as well as the creation of Pardini Park. Madonna Hall was renamed Donnelly Hall in honor of Sister Mary Emmanuel Donnelly's years of dedicated service to Notre Dame.
In 1999 a capital development program was announced to provide funds for a new 34,000-square-foot classroom building that incorporated the latest facilities for science and technology education, as well as a larger, modern library and up-to-date classrooms. Anderson-Brulé Architects were the project architects and Blach Construction was the general contractor. The doors of Manley Hall opened to students for the first time on September 9, 2002. The Most Reverend Patrick J. McGrath, Bishop of the San Jose Diocese, officially dedicated the building in a ceremony on October 19, 2002.
"Teach them what they need to know for life" was the guiding force behind St. Julie Billiart when she founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1804. More than 200 years later, those words still guide the mission of Notre Dame High School San Jose. While "what they need to know for life" has changed a great deal over the last two centuries, Notre Dame High School continues to educate the young women of Silicon Valley for success in that tradition.