Lake View High School
4015 North Ashland Avenue
Historic profile by Elizabeth A. Patterson
Lake View High School is often called “Chicago’s oldest public high school,” although this description is somewhat misleading, as the school was not located within Chicago at the time of its founding. The oldest remaining portion of the current high school dates to 1898, but the school’s storied history began much earlier.
In 1872, Lake View Township, then a still sparsely populated area northwest of Chicago, took advantage of a new state law enabling township governments to establish high schools. Classes were initially held in the Ravenswood Congregational Church, but in 1873, after the Graceland Cemetery Company donated land at the northeast corner of Ashland and Graceland (now Irving Park Road) Avenues for a school building. Later that year, the township erected “a substantial and commodious brick edifice,” Victorian Gothic in style, designed by S.M. Randolph. (1) At the time, the location was far north of Lake View’s population center. Indeed, the high school’s first principal, August Nightingale, observed that, “One might have walked a mile in any direction and not found a dozen children of school age except in the city of the dead.” (2)
Its remote location notwithstanding, the first Lake View High School had 96 students by March 1885, when it caught fire, leaving only the exterior walls standing. The community immediately rallied to rebuild. (3) A new brick building with a rusticated stone base, a prominent Romanesque-arched entryway inset with stained glass, an eccentric assortment of ornamented gables, and a steeply-pitched, hipped “tower” roof opened in 1886. (4) (The architect is unknown.) Following the practice of the time, the building had an assembly hall and a gymnasium on its upper floors. (5)
Three years later, in 1889, the City of Chicago annexed Lake View, which had recently surpassed 45,000 residents. Lake View became one of eleven high schools in the Chicago system, and one of an astounding seven added that year alone (along with Jefferson, Lake, Hyde Park, Englewood, Oakland, and South Chicago) through Chicago’s annexation of vast swaths of land in neighboring communities. (6)
With annexation came continued growth. Between 1890 and 1898, the population of Lake View High School quadrupled, rising from 250 to 1,000 students, many of whom were housed in nearby elementary schools. (7) A larger facility was clearly needed. So Board of Education Architect Normand S. Patton designed a large Tudor-Gothic-style addition to the north of the 1886 building. The 16-room-plus-assembly-hall addition opened for classes in January 1899. (8)
Patton’s addition, like the 1886 building, is of red brick atop a limestone base. It features a pair of crenellated, six-story engaged towers bracketing a second ornamental stone entrance, this one, too, facing Ashland Avenue. Set beneath four stories of limestone-trimmed windows and a projecting oriel window, the portal bears the inscription “Lake View High School” and the construction date of “1898.” These characters are carved into the stone amidst elaborate foliate ornament that surrounds a wide Tudor-arched doorway adorned with a stained glass window. (Two memorial windows by Tiffany and Company flank the second-story oriel. Installed in 1901, the windows honor former principal James H. Norton and former teacher Clara Klemm.) (9) A series of peaked gables and projecting bays punctuates the four-and-one-half-story addition’s northern end. Patton’s design, says the AIA Guide to Architecture, “was intended to emulate the style and quality of a university building.” (10)
Within a few short years, Lake View High School’s student body had yet again grown too large for the existing facility. As early as 1906, the school board voted to erect another addition, but the structure was slow to materialize. (11) Finally, a decade later, the Board demolished the 1886 portion of the building and erected extensions at both ends of Patton’s 1898 central core.
School Board Architect Arthur F. Hussander, known largely for his classical designs, here maintained the existing Tudor Gothic motif. Hussander’s 1916 additions featured limestone foundations, gabled dormers, crenellations, and another impressive ornamental stone entry, this one facing Irving Park Road. (Sometime after 1924, Lake View students, faculty, and alumni donated a large, vibrant stained glass window for the arched space above the Irving Park entrance in memory of long-time principal B. Frank Brown.) Inside were a new gymnasium and swimming pool to the north, and a large, first floor auditorium to the south. Artist Karl Peter Andreas Ouren adorned the auditorium’s proscenium arch with the portraits of treasured American authors. (These portraits remain in place, and were restored in 2000.) (12)
History repeated itself yet again in the late 1920s, when the student population outpaced available space, but the Great Depression intervened to delay the expansion for another decade. Finally, in 1938, the Board of Education erected a 77,000-square foot brick addition with Tudor Gothic details to the north of the existing buildings. This final addition, designed by head architect John Christensen, housed a new lunchroom and multiple gymnasiums. The massive high school now covered the entire stretch of Ashland Avenue between Irving Park and Belle Plaine. In 1939, Lake View High served about 2,700 students, about two-thirds of whom were girls, thanks to the proximity of the all-male Lane Technical High School. (13)
Even before the last addition to Lake View was completed, neighborhood residents were lamenting the lack of green space at the school. The problem was first felt when the city cut down nearby willow trees to permit the widening of Ashland Avenue in 1929. With the construction of the final addition north to Belle Plaine Avenue, the school would now be completely hemmed in by city streets on the north, west, and south sides and by residences on the half block behind. (14) The problem was not finally addressed, however, until 1970, when the Board of Education created a recreational area for the school, having bought and demolished the many dwellings on the east half of the block. (15)
In 1997, the Public Building Commission and Wolff Clements & Associates improved the 2.3-acre area as a Campus Park, with “a running track, playground, open field area for outdoor games, [and] a multipurpose area for marching band rehearsals or ROTC drills.” The improvements also included new benches, ornamental fencing and lighting, new trees and plantings, and mosaic artworks. (16)
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: First Annual Report of the Trustees of Lake View High School for the Year Ending June 25, 1875; Industrial Chicago, Vol. I, The Building Interests (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing, 1891), p. 611.
- Quoted in Stephen Bedell Clark, The Lake View Saga (Chicago: Lake View Trust & Savings Bank, 1974), p. 27.
- “The Fire Record: Partial Destruction of the Lake View High-School Building—Loss Estimated at $15,000,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 14, 1885.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Thirteenth Annual Report of the Lake View High School for the Year Ending June 23, 1887; Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Forty-Third Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 24, 1897, p. 61.
- “Lake View Holds Devotion of Generations: Overcrowded as it Goes through 55th Year,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 4, 1928.
- Ann Durkin Keating, “Lake View Township,” http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org; Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1890, p. 37.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Forty-Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 24, 1898, p.76.
- Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 24, 1899, p.162. An earlier plan for an addition was evidently prepared in 1895 by then-Board Architect August Fiedler, but he had been replaced by Patton by the time the addition was actually built. Public Schools of the City of Chicago: Forty-First Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 28, 1895, p. 91; Chicago Daily Tribune, June 23, 1895.
- Designed by Fred Wilson, these windows memorialize principal James H. Norton and teacher Clara Klemm. “Memorial Art in Lake View School,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1901; A Partial List of Windows Designed and Executed by Tiffany Studios (New York: Tiffany Studios, 1915), p. 53.
- Alice Sinkevitch, editor. AIA Guide to Chicago. 2nd Edition. (Orlando: A Harvest Original, Harcourt, Inc., 2004), p. 223.
- The American Architect and Building News, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 1590, June 16, 1906, p. vi.
- Becker, Heather, Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive- and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943 (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002), pp. 144-145.
- “Old Lake View Starts 66th Year with New Building,” The LakeReView, Vol. 38, No. 1, October 3, 1939, p. 1.
- Dr. Herman S. Pepoon, “The Passing of the Trees,” Handbook of the Lake View High School, Chicago, May, 1935; “Lake View High Waits to Buy More Land,” Chicago Daily News, September 18, 1935.
- “Schools to Get New Playgrounds, Toilets,” Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1970.