Update: Chicago Vocational High School was approved for National Register of Historic Places on August 15, 2022.
“We’ve been plenty concerned about Chicago Vocational, the architecturally important but underutilized Art Deco/Art Moderne designed high school in the city’s Avalon Park neighborhood.
“Built in 1941 for 4,000 students, only about 800 pupils currently attend the school at 2100 E. 87th Street.
“The city’s second-largest public school building — only Lane Tech is larger — Chicago Vocational is so underused, officials closed off a nearly block-long wing along Anthony Avenue, a few years ago.
“There was even talk a few years back of wrecking the Anthony wing, which triggered concerns among the school’s alumni about the building’s future.
“But those fears might be allayed a bit now. That’s because the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council last month voted to recommend the National Park Service list the rambling 81-year-old school on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It is simply one-of-a-kind and thus the school is well-deserving in taking its place among other noted and honored structures,” said Michael L. Mims, a 1978 graduate of the school — he majored in architectural drafting — who is leading the National Register nomination effort.
This is good news that we hope leads to a full-on effort to preserve the historic school — and rebuild its curriculum also.
“Now called Chicago Vocational Career Academy, but best known by its original name, Chicago Vocational High School, CVS sits on a 22-acre campus west of the Chicago Skyway.
“During its prime in the 20th century, the school provided a top-notch vocational education on the then-largely industrial Southeast Side.
“But rather than stick students with a bare-bones, factory-like school building, Chicago Board of Education architect John C. Christensen designed a stylish building, rippling with architectural details.
“‘CVS is an exemplary building and architecturally distinct from any other public school in Chicago,’ Oram said. ‘But CVS is more than another Art Deco landmark. CVS is a monument of social history that represents the experiences of local students, teachers, and families.’
“But Mims and Oram’s good work shows the city must also get about the business of granting CVS local landmark status.
“A city landmark designation would help protect the building from demolition or unsympathetic alterations.
“Together, a city landmark designation and the National Register could make a solid foundation to reinvest in CVS and turn it into the academic asset it once was — and must be again.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, 7/2/22)
Preservation Chicago is committed to strengthening the vibrancy of Chicago’s economy and quality of life by championing our historic built environment. Preservation Chicago protects and revitalizes Chicago’s irreplaceable architecture, neighborhoods and urban green spaces. We influence stakeholders toward creative reuse and preservation through advocacy, outreach, education, and partnership.