Chicago Vocational High School Restoration Could Lead to Renewed Status

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Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers (Flickr CC0)

Some Chicago Vocational High School alumni say the school they once attended “is in a state of despair.” While enrollment decreases, they are hopeful that establishing the school as an official landmark could save the building, along with the South Side community.

Chicago Vocational High School’s Origin

The school sits as a grand structure in Avalon Park on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Its nickname, “the Palace,” evokes recollections of bright futures with dignity. Its impressive architecture and size suit the hype regarding this place, states a previous student.

Constructed in the late 1930s, the building of Chicago Vocational High School was a Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The building possesses an art deco and modern art design, and it is blended with the curved ceilings, wood inlaid murals, and featured fluted exterior columns.

In addition, it is one of the largest Chicago Public Schools (CPS) buildings with its ability to house about 6,000 students.

Alumni from Chicago Vocational High School include comic Bernie Mac and the Bears’ great Dick Butkus. “The school drew motivated students, many of whom were Black and Brown across Chicago.

For decades the school boasted dozens of vocational programs, top-notch sports teams, and a nationally known marching band. Alums quickly remind that it was called “the Pride of the South.”

What Is Happening Now?

Courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil (Flickr CC0)

The school, now named Chicago Vocational Career Academy, needs help. Enrollment has declined, and the number of vocational programs has been severely cut.

When this school opened in 1940, its student body was over 4,800 students, compared to approximately its current enrollment of 730

Michael Mims, class of 1978, is the Chicago Vocational High School Restoration Project chair. The group organized an online petition to gather the signatures needed to obtain the landmark status. They hope it will prevent the demolition of the building and cause CPS to make much-needed and substantial repairs, with the intent of engaging more students and implementing more programs.

The desire to save this building is connected to a present belief in vocational education that some alumni declare can uplift Chicago youth from communities that do not provide adequate services for the people.

Written by Ke’Lena Thomas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

Chicago Sun-Times: Could preserving school’s regal architecture help CVS regain status as ‘the pride of the South Side’? By Jason Beeferman

Featured Image Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Daniel X. O’Neil’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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