Designate Chicago Vocational School (CVS) a Historic Landmark

Designate Chicago Vocational School (CVS) a Historic Landmark

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Chicago Vocational H.S. Restoration Project started this petition to City of Chicago Dept. of Planning and

Chicago Vocational School is located at 2100 East 87th Street on Chicago’s south side in Avalon Park. The South Side is the largest of the City’s three sides. 

Chicago Vocational School (CVS) was constructed in 1938 and sits on a 27-acre campus with two contributing structures bordered by 87th Street, Anthony Avenue, 85th Street, and Chappel Avenue. The school is set in a residential community of Post WWII era, single-family dwellings.

The campus, which encompasses 4.4 square city blocks, includes a World War II-era aircraft hangar that contributes to its historical integrity. CVS was one of only two structures in the Avalon Park community recognized for architectural distinction by the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.

Chicago Vocational School is a strong candidate for Chicago Landmark designation. It is believed that the school meets six of the seven criteria, but more particularly Criterion 1 for its significance to Chicago history and Criterion 4 as an exemplary example of Art Deco-Art Moderne architecture.

Criteria #1: CVS was designed as a male-only vocational high school, which included state-of-the-art shop rooms for classes like sheet-metal, engineering, printing, auto mechanics, electrical work, and architectural drafting. The monumental building was designed to accommodate 6,000 students – and remains one of the largest public schools ever constructed in Chicago history. It was designed and highly regarded at that time to be the largest, most modern and best equipped trade school in the entire United States of America.

Financial support for the school’s construction came from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program during the Great Depression. The school features a fourteen-panel wood carved mural in the auditorium completed by an artist for the WPA Federal Artists Project in 1939. Four of the panels depict architectural landmarks in downtown Chicago; like the Chicago Board of Trade building, while the other panels depict scenes of industry and commerce, relevant to the vocational programs offered at CVS. This is an exceptional example of WPA-era public art unique to Chicago due to its wood panel construction; most surviving public school murals are traditional fresco and oil paintings.

Also, historically unique was the school’s conversion into a Naval Training School for Mechanics during World War II. The Board of Education gave the school over to the Department of Navy to train naval men and teachers to repair and assemble aircrafts. The school was occupied by the Defense Priority Board and Second Floor Anthony Wing served as barracks for naval students and personnel, and notably an aircraft hangar was constructed on campus in 1941 for students to study aviation mechanics, which still remains today. This was the only high school in the state of Illinois occupied by a branch of the U.S. Military during the war, and the only school in the country that trained teachers in aviation mechanics for the Navy during World War II.

Criteria #4: Art Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France before World War I. Its name stems from the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris in 1925. In the 1930s a sleeker form of Art Deco called Art Moderne emerged featuring curving forms and smooth polished surfaces, giving way to more functional and unadorned styles of modern architecture.

Chicago Vocational School is an architectural icon on the south side of Chicago and blends art deco and art moderne design. It’s mostly notable exterior features are dramatic curved limestone facades. Repeating vertical lines in the facades draw the eye skyward to suggest modernity and progress. This design is characteristic of Art Deco skyscrapers constructed in Chicago during the 1930s like the Chicago Board of Trade Building but is rare in low-rise schoolhouses. In fact, Chicago Vocational School is the largest Art Deco/Art Moderne building in Chicago that is not a skyscraper and is Chicago's best large-scale example of Art Deco-Art Moderne architecture. 

The school is also home to such notable Alumns as Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, NFL Linebacker for Chicago Bears; Comedian Bernard McCullough-aka Bernie Mack; NFL Linebacker Keena Turner; and Jowan Howard-Head Basketball Coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

This wonderful, historical and architectural wonder should be preserved. Those who have signed this petition believe the historical value, aesthetic interest, and the developmental role Chicago Vocational School has played, not only for the city, but for our great nation is unmatched- and certainly worth saving.

Please join us in saving, preserving, and LANDMARKING Chicago Vocational School.

Thank you.

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At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!