In 1866 Father Machebeuf ventured northward from Denver to conduct the first non-Indian religious rites in Larimer County. In 1867 the town site was named Fort Collins. The bishop authorized Frank Michaud to pay $400 to buy the first public school house in Fort Collins and convert it to Saint Joseph Church. The little frame house, built in 1870, still stands.
After several different pastors presided at Saint Joseph Parish and tended missions at Greeley, Longmont and Loveland, Guillaume J. LaJeunesse became pastor in 1898 of a parish totaled about 1,000 parishioners with 75 children in religious classes. The parish then purchased a more central site on the corner of Mountain Avenue and Howes Street, and built a $12,000 church of rusticated stone. It was dedicated on August 4, 1901 by Bishop Matz.
In 1925, the Saint Joseph parish began building a Catholic school. It was designed in a Spanish colonial style with rustic tan-face brick, red sandstone trim and a red tile roof. It also had curvilinear parapets, balconettes, grand baroque double-staircase entry beneath an oriel window and a colored tile bas-relief of the lamp of learning.
On September 26, 1926, Bishop Tihen blessed the $66,000 School that the Sisters of Loretto opened in the fall of that same year with an enrollment of 117 students. In 1945 a ninth grade was added to the school, and in 1955 the Sisters of Loretto constructed a $100,000 convent between the church and the school.
With the school enrollment expanding, it was decided in 1965 to add four classrooms and a new gymnasium to the south side of the building, and the 1925 gymnasium was remodeled into classrooms and a cafeteria. When school opened in the fall of 1966 it had eight grades and 300 students.
In the summer of 1999, ground was broken for a Junior High addition to the school. The additional space houses the Art Room, Science Lab and grades 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. A new school entrance, lobby area and office space were added and ready for occupancy in October 1999. In the spring of 2000 the second phase remodeled the lower level in the original school building to enlarge the cafeteria, the kindergarten rooms and the faculty lounge. Total cost for the building / renovation project was $3,800,000.00.
The first 9th grade class to graduate from the new addition was the class of 2003. The last class to graduate from the new addition was the class of 2009. Saint Joseph School grade configuration for the 2009/2010 school year became K – 8th.
Saint Joseph Catholic School follows the curriculum guides of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools and is a top performer among its schools. Students excel in Mathematics, Science, and Language Arts. The dedicated and stable faculty of certified teachers average fourteen years teaching experience and seven years at Saint Joseph’s alone. The students compete on fourteen teams in four sports in the Northern Colorado Independent League comprised of nine schools and boast numerous first and second place teams and individual finishes.