The Ursuline Sisters, who established the Villa Maria Academy in 1891, a girl’s boarding school, the outgrowth of a girl’s school the sisters established in nearby Lake City in 1880, three years after their arrival to the area.
The Villa Maria Academy closed abruptly after a fire caused by a lightning strike burned down the three-story classroom building on March 20, 1969.
After the academy closed, the Ursulines established an ecumenical retreat center on the property in 1970. For 45 years, Villa Maria remained an interfaith retreat and conference center sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters to help people, organizations and groups in their spiritual and personal growth.
The main building on the property, Marin Hall built in 1946 by the Sisters in the style of historic French Country Chateaus is being renovated as an event center with lodging rooms and suites expected to be available in 2023.
Walkers hiked to the back of the property visiting the dining hall and camping cabins that were used for summer campers.
Pernille Flesche and Margaret Peterson spoke of the excellent education they received from the nuns, the opportunity to meet girls from around the world who were boarding students and great memories of their school experiences such as prom.
The WLP group will meet next week, Wednesday, July 27, at 6:30 at the wayside rest just off Wabasha County Rd 2. The group will hike the Sand Point Trail to Lake Pepin. This is a trail the group does every year, one of the groups favorite hikes. Bring water, walking poles if needed and bug spray. Questions? Call Patty Svien 345-4383.