Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy
533 West 27th Street
Historical profile by by Elizabeth A. Patterson
On December 10, 1880, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that: “The Board of Education paid a graceful compliment to the memory of an honest man last evening by naming one of the new schools…in honor of Mark Sheridan.”
A well-known politician of his time, Sheridan (1826-1877) had died several years before. Born in Waterford, Ireland, he arrived in Chicago in 1856, after making intermediate stops in New York, Boston, and Baltimore. In Chicago, he entered the meat packing business, but soon became a public servant, serving over the years as Overseer of Highways, Fifth Ward alderman, and (somewhat controversially) Police Commissioner.
Augustus Bauer designed the 3-1/2 story brick Italianate style school building which bears Mark Sheridan’s name. Bauer, one of Chicago’s earliest professional architects, designed many important Chicago buildings, including Old St. Patrick’s Church, completed in 1856 (with partner Asher Carter). Still under construction when named, the school was occupied in December of 1881. (1) It is among the oldest public school buildings still in use in Chicago.
In 1901, W. B. Mundie designed a seven-room brick addition to the building, bringing the school’s total capacity to over 1,200 students. A kindergarten was added the following year. (2) The building has two major masses, one on its west side and the other on its east. At the west, the original Bauer-designed building has a recessed bay with a doorway and windows above. Although the 1881 building has a flat roof edged with a bracketed cornice, a triangular pediment rises above the roofline. Beneath it, a small bay projects from the first story.
Mundie’s addition on the east echoes many of the original features, but is distinguished by a substantial limestone arched-entryway, a lively arched window, and a handsome stone base that wraps around the building.
Not surprisingly, this venerable building sits in one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, Bridgeport, located on the south branch of the Chicago River. As early as 1836, construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal brought Irish immigrant laborers to the neighborhood; Germans and Norwegians soon followed. With the canal’s completion in 1848, lumberyards lined Bridgeport’s river and canal banks, and the neighborhood for a time became the center of Chicago’s meat-packing industry. Still more industries and job-seeking immigrants—Czechs, Poles, and Lithuanians, among others—arrived after the Great Fire of 1871. (3) Mark Sheridan School was one of two new schools opened in 1881 to meet the needs of Bridgeport’s expanding population. (The other was the nearly identical Wallace Street School (now McClellan) at Wallace and 35th Streets.) (4)
In the years following the opening of Mark Sheridan School, the primarily working class, immigrant student body occasionally received special attention from outside the community. In 1893, for example, students of Sheridan School were among children from across the city offered the chance to attend the World’s Columbian Exposition at the expense of a benefactor, in their case, Col. A.J. Burbank. (5)
The following decade, the Chicago Tribune provided a colorful description of Mark Sheridan students who participated in the dedication of Mark White Square. This delegation included “boys in paper ‘soldier caps’” and “little girls dressed in confirmation gowns, white shoes and stockings,” who “marched in double file, each child carrying a little flag.” (6) (Today, Mark White Square, located at 29th and Halsted streets, is known as McGuane Park.)
The 1881 school building is now home to the Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy, a magnet school with a diverse student population. The school provides enhanced programming through partnerships with groups and organizations such as the Hyde Park Art Center, the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education, and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Twenty-Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending July 31, 1881, p.62.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1901, pp.14-15; Forty-Eighth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1903, p. 28.
- Local Community Fact Book: Chicago Metropolitan Area, 1990 (Chicago: The Chicago Fact Book Consortium, 1994), p. 175.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Twenty-Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending July 31, 1881, p. 61.
- “Children at the Fair in Schools,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 19, 1893, p. 1.
- “Children Rule for a Day, Take Possession of New Mark White Square,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 11, 1905, p. 5; “Seek New Small Parks,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 3, 1901, p. 8.