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Why do they call it that? Smelly shop hosts high school | News

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Why do they call it that? Smelly shop hosts high school
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Two women stepped off a boat in Tampa, 131 years ago this week. They had nearly no belongings, but they had a dream that's still going strong today.

Why do they call it Academy of the Holy Names?

Drive along Bayshore Boulevard in South Tampa, and you'll see one big old building rising beside the road. It's the Academy of the Holy Names.

And if this architectural appetizer looks like a great place to go to school, what do you think of the school's original Tampa home?

It was a blacksmith's shop -- so recently converted to a classroom, you could still smell the fire, the smoke, and the horse... scents.

But for the often poor students who went there to learn, the stink was worth it.

"It made it possible for children who might not have been able to receive an education to get just that," said Arthur Raimo.

He's the president at Academy of the Holy Names, the second-oldest high school in the entire State of Florida.

"The sisters came up from Key West -- they were actually invited up to start a school here," Raimo said.

How many teachers were at that first school in Tampa? Nun!

Get it? Nun? The school was run by an order of nuns.

The name of that group of devout women is the key to the school's name, too.

"The sisters -- they decided to dedicate their lives to the names of Jesus and Mary. So, when they refer to the holy names, it's actually the holy names of Jesus and Mary," Raimo said.

Over the years, the school and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary convent have moved and grown along with the city. Since, 1929, home has been in the sturdy, stunning school building on Bayshore Boulevard.

The sisters wanted to have a lasting influence on education in Tampa. And, to do that, you need a building that lasts. Even the flooring in that 83-year old building on Bayshore is still in great shape.

They're surrounded by connections to their past -- the school archives still have the sisters' original handwritten logs from 1881, for example -- but they've constantly looked to the future here.

The sisters founded one of Tampa's first schools, hosted some of the city's first-ever plays and arts performances, and added exercise to the school day.

Now, next year, thanks to a series of donations and grants, they'll be putting iPads into the hands of every 3rd-12th grader.

"While we want to honor the past, we want to have our feet firmly planted in the present as well," Raimo said.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

So, if Academy of the Holy Names is Florida's second-oldest high school, which one's the oldest?

It's Leon High School in Tallahassee. Really, it's not even close -- Leon is older than Academy of the Holy Names by 50 years.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

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