EPIC Academy Charter High School (formerly Sullivan Elementary School)
8255 South Houston Avenue
Historical profile by Elizabeth A. Patterson
EPIC Academy Charter High School is housed in a handsome brick building that was constructed in 1902. Initially serving as an elementary school, the facility was needed to educate the children of immigrant steel workers who were drawn to the South Chicago neighborhood by the South Works of the United States Steel Corporation. (1) The school was originally named for William K. Sullivan (1843—1899), an Irish immigrant who became an Illinois Legislator, managing editor of the Chicago Evening Journal, and president of the Chicago Board of Education. (2) After a century, Sullivan Elementary School was relocated to a new building at 8331 South Mackinaw Avenue designed by architects Fox & Fox. (3) The Board of Education retained the historic structure, converting it into a public charter high school.
This is one of many schools designed by William Bryce Mundie, Architect to the Board of Education from 1899 through 1904. When the Board of Education appointed Mundie on December 31, 1898, the school population was growing wildly, creating a great need for new buildings. Indeed, the Construction News reported that, during his tenure, Mundie “directe[d] the designing and supervise[d] the constructing of ten to fifteen school buildings annually.” (4) Mundie stressed the importance of producing “more artistic and better built schools for the children of our city.” (5) And the School Board did value the high quality of his work: the Board’s 1901 Annual Report boasted that “the school buildings erected under his administration are of such a high standard of architectural excellence that the officials of other cities have modeled their schools after them.” (6)
Mundie’s large collection of Chicago school buildings reflects variations of the Classical Revival style. The prolific architect employed a wide array of traditional ornamentation, using cornices, stringcourses, quoined corners, hooded windows, columns, pilasters, and pediments in endless creative combinations. Only a few of Mundie’s schools are based on identical designs. (Plamondon and Morse (now Polaris Charter Academy) Schools constitute one such pair.) Many, however, like the Sullivan School, are truly unique, each comprising its own pleasing amalgam of architectural details.
Built at a cost of $115,000, the new building at South Houston and East 83rd Street had 18 rooms with seating for 904 students. (7) As with most of Mundie’s designs, the Sullivan School was a substantial red brick structure with limestone detailing. The building’s three-and-one-half stories are set off by numerous horizontal stone elements, including rows of crown-like window hoods, a water table at the top of the basement level, and several other stringcourses of varying widths. The recessed central mass of the primary façade features a prominent limestone porch ornamented with decorative shields and its own elaborate cornice. An arched entryway frames the school’s front doors. An impressive cornice, adorned with dentil moldings, supported by brackets, and topped by a parapet wall, crowns the building.
- Local Community Fact Book: Chicago Metropolitan Area, 1990 (Chicago: The Chicago Fact Book Consortium, 1994), p. 146.
- ‘P.D. Armour School’ Named Yesterday by District Committee,” Chicago Daily Tribune, January 8, 1901; “William K. Sullivan,” Chicago Daily Tribune, January 18, 1899.
- Construction News, January 23, 1904, p. 53.
- William Bryce Mundie, “The Architect and Chicago Schools,” The Western Architect, July, 1907, no. 7, p. 6.
- Chicago Board of Education Annual Report for the Year Ending June 30, 1901, p. 15. The Board further noted Mundie’s “efficiency and promptitude of service” in completing new schools and additions. Ibid.