FRANCISCAN SISTERS CAME FROM SCOTLAND IN 1858 TO ESTABLISH IMMACULATE CONCEPTION ACADEMY, A BOARDING AND DAY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS.
For this work, Mother Veronica and three companions had moved on to the Jamaican mission field. Candidates from prominent Jamaican families soon increased the Sisters' numbers. Of these, the two D'Aquin and Sisters brought as their dowry the property known as Nun's Pen. Finding that it was no longer possible to obtain more Sisters form Scotland, an appeal for assistance was made to the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. In 1878 Sister Veronica, Dominica and Raphael arrived in the West Indies. The Allegany Franciscan Sisters joined with the Sisters from Scotland in directing the missions.
Mother Paula, who succeeded Mother Veronica guided the Sisters through the disastrous earthquake of 1907 that demolished in a few awful minutes the work of fifty years. The ensuing fire totally destroyed the building on Duke Street, leaving the sisters' Nun's Pen as a haven for the time. They began to rebuild their shattered schools, and before Mother Paula's death in 1914, nearly all had been reconstructed.
Mother Paula was succeeded in office by the Alegany Sister Mother Veronica, who spent forty - two years in the Jamaica mission. Her successor was Mother Alacoque. Under her direction, schools opened at Montego Bay and Highgate, and Immaculate Conception High School expanded as a grant-aided school. All the Sisters' schools were flourishing when a second trial came: an extensive fire destroyed the whole group of buildings at Duke Street.
The Constant Spring Hotel
In 1888 the American Hotel Company established in Constant Spring St. Andrew, a luxury hotel. This hotel and the Myrtle were the first attempts at creating a real hotel industry in Kingston.
The hotel was the first building in Jamaica to be fitted with electricity and indoor plumbing. In addition it was the central factor that initiated development of this rural area. The Constant Spring Post Office for example was instituted primarily for the use of the hotel's patrons. Unfortunately the hotel was never to be a financial success.
At this time only the very wealthy could afford to 'vacation' let alone do so abroad. In any event tropical destinations were not yet popular and vacationers preferred the 'cultural centres' such as Paris, London and New York. It was necessary therefore for the Jamaican Legislature to take over the hotel in 1895.
During the 1920s, Sir Henry Thornton, and An American born hotelier established a line of luxury hotels. He also owned a steamship line that took vacationers to the West Indies. On arriving in Jamaica on one of these cruises, Thornton realized the great deficiency of accommodation. In conjunction with the fellow hotelier Frank Dudley and Vernon Cardy, an investigation ensued and a recommendation was made for the construction of a 100 room luxury hotel at the Constant Spring site.
The three storey stone building was palatial and lacked no amenities. It was in fact the first building in the West Indies to be constructed for earthquake resistance. The grounds were beautifully landscaped and fitted with tennis courts, a rattan gazebo and stables. In addition the golf course was superbly laid out. Furniture and fittings were the most lavish of the times. All this ran the cost of the hotel over $800,000.00!
The hotel opened in 1931 offering a number of attractions: Hairdressing salons, balls, teas and five star meals prepared by two French chefs and a Viennese baker. By 1936 however, the hotel had run into great financial difficulty and by 1940 the government felt it was time to put Constant Spring up for sale.
Sir Arthur Richards was then the Governor of Jamaica. He contacted Mother Xavier the Franciscan superior and Sr. Davidica, the principal of Immaculate, and knowing of their plight offered them the hotel. The government was asking a measly $40,000.00. The deal seemed ideal.
In January 1941 the Immaculate Conception High School was reported at Constant Spring. Ninety-nine students were enrolled and 16 boarders. The school students were from the small group of wealthy Catholic residents in Jamaica, as well as those from Cuba, Haiti, Latin America and Canada. The Eastern block of the hotel was used for the boarding school and the west for the convent. Classes were taught on the ground floor where the bar had been. Music was taught in the servants' quarters and domestic science in one of the cottages. The gazebo was improved and became a summer house and site for physical education. To date the only physical changes to the building has been re-roofing after Hurricane Gilbert, and the addition of doors.
The original building had no doors but Sr. Davidica foresaw the danger this could pose to the girls. In the 1950s the school began construction of classrooms on the lower section of the property. A major building expansion programme was launched in October 1978 and fund-raising plans and drives were accelerated. On December 8, 1980 a new complex, comprising;
- Twelve large classrooms
- A school chapel
- New library
- Extension to Book Store
- Home Economics Centre
- Art and Craft Studio
- Audio Visual Rooms
- Spacious Staff Room with conveniences and
- New General Science Laboratories were blessed at a Liturgical Celebration and formally opened with official ceremonies.
In the late 1990s a new Sixth Form building and a Performing Arts Centre (the former Commercial Building) were added. The boarding facilities are no longer offered. However, the school continues today as one of the most beautiful High School campuses in Jamaica.