SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL: Give an A+ for effort to grant landmark status for Bowen High School

Bowen High School, 1910, Dwight Perkins, 2710 E. 89th St. Photo Credit: Mary Lu Seidel / Preservation Chicago
Bowen High School, 1910, Dwight Perkins, 2710 E. 89th St. Photo Credit: Mary Lu Seidel / Preservation Chicago

“When Carl Schurz High School was granted city landmark status in 1979, the report making the case for the designation listed other architecturally significant Chicago schools designed by the North Side edifice’s noted architect, Dwight Perkins.

“The list included the now-former Trumbull Elementary in Andersonville, Cleveland Elementary in the Irving Park community and others designed by Perkins when he was chief public school architect from 1905 to 1910.

“Absent from that roll call, however, was Schurz’s twin, James H. Bowen High School, 2710 E. 89th St. In addition to being omitted from the designation report, the school — designed by Perkins and opening the same day as Schurz — has never been landmarked by the city.

“Bowen alum Marc Edelstein wants to change that. The 1968 graduate began circulating an online petition recently in a bid to seek enough popular support to nudge city officials to finally landmark the 112-year-old South Chicago neighborhood school.

“‘Architecturally, it’s a gem,’ Edelstein told us.

“He’s right. And it’s high time to correct the 40-year-old oversight.

“Edelstein is vice president of the Bowen High School Alumni Association. He said the group’s main purpose is awarding scholarships to the schools’ deserving seniors, but Edelstein began championing for Bowen to have landmark status five years ago.

“‘The petition is our most recent attempt to get greater public support and hopefully make an impact on the landmarking decision-makers,’ Edelstein said.

“‘As a landmark, the building will be preserved and maintained, which will help the economy of the hard-working South Chicago neighborhood residents,’ said one signer.

“‘Preserving SE side treasures is vital to the preservation of the community!’ wrote another.

“‘[Its] bold Mission, Prairie, and Chicago School elements speak to Dwight Perkins’ gifts,’ Edelstein said. ‘His use of natural lighting and sophisticated hygiene systems — imagine, indoor bathrooms on every floor — were unique for the time.’

Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., was designed with the same features and has been rightfully lauded for them. In addition to being a city landmark, Schurz has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.

A city planning department spokesperson says the agency’s historic preservation staff believes Bowen and Chicago Vocational would meet landmark criteria. But there’s no word on when — or even if — the buildings would be brought before the landmarks commission for approval.

“Classic public schools are among the finest buildings in Chicago, yet they are unrecognized in a city that’s rightfully proud of, if not downright boastful about, its architecture.

“It’s time to landmark Bowen and bring more architecturally significant school buildings into the fold.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 8/30/22)

Preservation Chicago has been working closely with Marc Edelstein and the Bowen High School Alumni Association to help protect and landmark Bowen High School. We contributed to the report for future inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. We would volunteer our services pro bono to the City of Chicago to prepare a Chicago Landmark Designation report for Bowen High School.

Read the full editorial at the Chicago Sun-Times

Give an A+ for effort to grant landmark status for Bowen High School; It’s time to landmark Bowen and bring more architecturally-significant school buildings into the fold, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 8/30/22

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