In 1873 St. Joseph's Academy was located at the site of St. Joseph's Hall on Loras Boulevard. The goal of the school was to encourage boys to enter the priesthood. One of the pupils, John Patrick CARROLL, became the bishop of Montana. Other graduates who entered the priesthood included Leo BINZ who became the Archbishop of Dubuque. Henry P. ROHLMAN served first as the business manager of the college and was later chosen archbishop. From the classes between 1876 and 1926 a total of 439 students became priests out of 740 graduates.
A building campaign was started in 1878 and capped in 1884 with a diocesan collection that led to the construction of a chapel, study hall, and rooms for teachers. Archbishop John J. KEANE led more expansion efforts in 1902. A large building was erected which contained classrooms, gymnasium, laboratories, and rooms for students and faculty. In 1910 a combination chapel and auditorium were completed. A gymnasium was completed in 1912. LORAS COLLEGE owned the buildings and property when the Academy closed.
A list of Academy students would include William McKay who entered the field of journalism and became the managing editor of the Paris edition of the Chicago Times. Arch WARD, a graduate in 1916, founded the national All-Star baseball game. Richard Louis MURPHY became a United States Senator and Gerald E. Lyons moved to Washington, D.C. to be the general solicitor of the Farm Credit Administration. Future attorneys who attended the Academy included Francis J. O'CONNOR, Robert KENLINE, Thomas NELSON. Journalist Louis Schaefle, called the "Little Napoleon" by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, graduated from the Academy in 1926. Don AMECHE went on to fame on stage and in the movies. John James JEHRING found fame in the field of economics.
Columbia Academy won the Catholic State High School football championships in 1926, 1927, 1929, and 1930. From 1925 to 1931 Columbia football teams scored 1,027 points against 343 from the opposition. In basketball such stars as Robert MATTHEWS and Merlin MARTY brought crowds to their feet with their ability. The coaching of John W. CRETZMEYER annually led to academy teams participation in the Loyola University Catholic High School Invitational in Chicago. The rifle team of Columbia Academy was so proficient under the guidance of Sgt. C. A. Peterson that it competed in the 1937 Camp Perry National Rifle Competition. In 1943 Loras Academy won the National Interscholastic Gallery Matches.
With the closing of Loras Academy, students attended WAHLERT HIGH SCHOOL.