In 1915, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille established a day and boarding school for girls in Mt. Washington under the name of St. Joseph Academy. In 1950, Archbishop John Timothy McNicholas designated that the Academy would become a diocesan high school and directed that it would be the first coeducational parochial high school in the Cincinnati area. On January 15, 1951, Archbishop Karl J. Alter approved changing the name of the new co-ed institution to Archbishop McNicholas High School, and in September, boys started attending classes.
The only building on the McNicholas campus was the Academy building, now called the Convent. As the student population increased, additional classroom space was required. In 1953, McNicholas Hall (now Senior Hall) and a gymnasium/auditorium were built. A connector called the "Streetcar" brought the two buildings together. In 1956, Alter Hall was added providing ten classrooms, a cafeteria, kitchen, and a faculty room. These areas still function as originally intended with Lower Alter serving as Freshman Hall.
In 1960, St. Joseph Hall was completed adding twelve classrooms and office space used for conferences, guidance and administrative purposes. Upper St. Joe Hall still houses the Guidance Department and serves as half of Junior Hall; lower St. Joe is Sophomore Hall.
As the student population swelled to more than 1,000, the "Streetcar" was converted into Marian Hall adding six classrooms. Renovations continued as a 1,600-seat gymnasium was added, a 7,000-square foot classroom area was built over Marian Hall, and the old gymnasium was converted into the Library Media Center and an audiovisual facility. The latter now serves as the Jeanne Spurlock Theatre to accommodate drama and theatre classes and productions.
The Sisters of St. Joseph were members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Bourg until 1977. The motherhouse was located in Bourg en Bresse, France. Of this congregation, there were three provinces in the United States – one each in northern Minnesota, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. In 1977, these three provinces broke away from the congregation in Bourg and took the name of their founder, Father Jean Pierre Medaille.
More changes were required to accommodate program needs in the early and mid-1990s. Upper Marian Hall was converted into classrooms for the Theology Department and renovations of Lower St. Joe classrooms provided state of the art facilities for science and photography classes.
Two of the most significant changes in McNicholas history occurred in 1997 and 1998. In 1997, the Sisters of St. Joseph turned over to McNicholas the Convent building. It is now home to the modern languages departments, art department, and the Athletic, Alumni, and Development Offices.
On July 1, 1998, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati purchased McNicholas High School from the Sisters. Through participation on the School Board and special committees and projects, the Sisters of St. Joseph remain an active part of McNicholas.
McNicholas underwent significant renovation in 2006 when the Courtyard, the Beechmont entrance, and the Library Media Center were refurbished and the Auxiliary Gym was built. Penn Station Stadium, Phil Finn Track, baseball and softball fields, concession stand, and bathrooms comprise the Paradise athletic complex completed when the lights came on in fall 2018.
Throughout the history of McNicholas High School, many things have changed. The mission, "That youth may attain full stature in Christ," however, has remained the same.