Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, first Bishop of Newark and nephew of Elizabeth Ann Seton, began to plan and organize Seton Hall. Bayley purchased an estate in Madison, NJ, using money donated by Catholic Charities. Five priests and eight laymen formed a Board of Directors, which transformed the site into a Catholic preparatory school, college and seminary. The inaugural class was five students on December 1, 1856.
By the end of 1857 the growing institution needed larger facilities; Seton Hall President Rt. Rev. Bernard McQuaid purchased an estate in South Orange, to which the school moved in 1860. The Prep subsequently would spend the next 125 years on the institution’s South Orange campus.
Until 1928 the President of Seton Hall College was also the head of the Preparatory Division. At that time, Rev. D.A. Mulcahy became the high school’s first director. The following year Rev. William Bradley was named director, then principal and ultimately the school’s first headmaster in 1938.
The Prep school’s population grew further over the next decades, with booms during World War II and in the mid 70’s and with a significant portion of the student body boarding on campus. The school occupied three main buildings on the university campus— Mooney Hall, Duffy Hall and Stafford Hall. The last of the boarding students graduated in the mid-50’s.
In the early and mid twentieth century Prep drew its students principally from Essex and Union counties, but as the state’s transportation system expanded in the sixties and seventies, the Prep began to draw students from further afield, with growing contingents from Morris, Bergen, Passaic and Middlesex counties.
In 1980 Rev. Michael E. Kelly became the first alumnus headmaster. Five years later The Prep acquired an eleven-acre campus of its own in nearby West Orange, and became self incorporated in that location.
In 1993, the school purchased a 44-acre tract of land on nearby Prospect Avenue, overlooking the New York City skyline. Beginning in 1993 The Prep began construction on the Edward D. and Helen M. Kelly Athletic Complex there.
In 2005 the school celebrated two milestones, marking The Prep’s 150th anniversary, as well as the 25th anniversary of Msgr. Kelly’s headmastership.