I passed CVS many times in my childhood trips to 87th, Stony Island Park (Jesse Owen Park) and a graduate of Warren Elementary in 1969 on the south side of Chicago. However, Chicago Vocational School was a mystery to me until later years. When I began to listen and become more excited, I learned that at one time it was the best 4-year male vocational trade school in the United States as well as the largest. I went on to James H. Bowen HS. but some friends attended state-of-the-art classes at CVS that included architectural/ machine drafting, aviation mechanics, electrical engineering, machine shop, printing, sheet metal and wood pattern making. It is the only high school in Illinois occupied by the Navy during World War II. During that time, it was open 24 hours a day offering aviation, defense training and teacher training. An airplane hangar was built with an actual plane added. In 1946, women were admitted and the first ROTC program took place at this high school in the state. Over 4,000 students attended the massive structure also called the palace in 1946. Dick Butkus, a professional football player, and now 79 years old, graduated in 1960. Chicago Bears player, Chris Zorich, now 52, played football there as well. Some CVS students got to meet Bernie Mac, a comedian, who passed away in 2008.
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. CVS is currently an architectural beauty and is the largest Art Deco/Art Moderne building in Chicago. Now called Chicago Vocational Career Academy, they said that at one time there were 40 classrooms, two study halls, a lecture room, a chorus room, band room, auditorium, gymnasium, natatorium and lunch room. When CVS opened, it could accommodate 6,000 students with 800,000 square feet of interior floor space. Some talked of underground tunnels located in the basement. Half of the construction costs were supposedly paid by the Federal Works Public Administration; the total being a little over 3 million.
For decades, the school thrived with award winning programs and invincible sports. The third Pan American Games were held at CVS between August 28 and September 7, 1959. Many did compete in interscholastic sports with sports teams named the Cavaliers. Today, the boys basketball competed in many regional championships from 2006-2016. But student enrollment has declined as well as the number of programs available. Work needs to be done to improve building structure. Chairman of the Chicago Vocational High School Restoration Project, Michael L. Mims, who graduated in 1978 has organized an online petition to obtain landmark status which would help bring more students and help restore the structure maintaining this amazing, historical icon that will be honored and not be torn down. Please click on the above link to sign the petition; 5,000 are needed.