Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School
(formerly Robert Lindblom Technical High School)
6130 South Wolcott Avenue
Historical profile by Bill Latoza
Located on an entire city block in the West Englewood neighborhood, Lindblom is one of the most impressive and monumental high schools in Chicago. Designed by Arthur F. Hussander, the building exemplifies some of the finest Beaux Arts architecture in the Chicago Public Schools’ portfolio. The City of Chicago’s Commission on Landmarks described Lindblom High School as “…a powerful manifestation of the City Beautiful” movement. Built on a grand scale, its neo-classical façades dwarf the surrounding residential neighborhood. (1)
The school honors Robert Lindblom (1844–1907), a Swedish immigrant who made his mark in the grain commodity business at the Chicago Board of Trade. A civic-minded individual, he donated $500,000 to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, and was “decorated with the insignia of the Vasa Order by King Oscar” for his involvement with the Swedish Exhibit there. (2) According to the Chicago Tribune, Lindblom was also a champion of “education improvements and one of the most generous financial contributors to the Chicago school system.” (3) A Chicago Board of Education member from 1893 to 1896, Lindblom served as chairman of its finance committee of the Chicago Board of Education In 1895, he presented a motion to provide for manual training in the grammar schools, a forward looking concept at the time. manual training in the grammar schools, so that Chicago would “train the hands as well as the heads.” (4)
When Arthur Hussander developed plans for the high school honoring Lindblom two decades later, it was therefore fitting that the school’s design featured manual training programs for both girls and boys. The building had rooms specially equipped for sewing, weaving, pottery-making, and typing. A print shop and a drafting studio were included, as was an automotive shop where students could disassemble and repair cars.
The school was not solely devoted to manual training, however. It also provided academic programs in chemistry, physics, zoology, and botany, and focused on cultural arts such as drama and dance. A modern cafeteria, separate gymnasiums for boys and girls, two swimming pools, and a greenhouse were also part of the original design.
The Board of Education voted to fund the new Lindblom school in 1913. Construction did not begin until March of 1917, however, and the United States’ entry into World War I the following month hampered progress. The school was finally completed in September 2, 1919, at a cost of $1.3 million. (5)
Composed of buff brick, terra cotta and Indiana limestone, the three-story building is rigorously symmetrical in its layout. It consists of a central block that contains the lobby, auditorium and administration offices. A magnificent stretch of Ionic columns lines the façade of the central block. This primary mass is flanked by a pair of long wings. Exquisite interior details and finishes such as ornamental plaster, decorative terrazzo floors, skylights, and colonnades enliven the building.
In 2000, the Board of Education began a six-year, $30 million rehabilitation of the school. Conducted by BauerLatoza Studio, the work included: new windows to match the original in size and divisions; conservation of the cast-iron spandrel panels; cleaning and pointing of all masonry facades; interior plaster repairs; paint finishes matching the originals; restoring and replicating historic lighting fixtures; and replicating over 65,000 square feet of terrazzo flooring.
Educational enhancements included new computer labs and web connectivity; art and journalism rooms; choral, band and private practice rooms; auditorium and back stage technical upgrades; a new media center; and science labs and lecture rooms. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation – Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois awarded the restoration work its 2006 Outstanding Rehabilitation Award. The project also received a Merit Award from the Chicago Building Congress.
- Robert Lindblom Technical High School Building Landmark Designation Report, City of Chicago, April 1, 2010, p. 1.
- “Prominent Broker Dies Suddenly,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 17, 1907, p. 4.
- Thomas Hall, “School Name Honors Lindblom, Grain Dealer,” Chicago Tribune, April 7th, 1966 p. G1.
- “Pupils In The Shop: Ten New Manual Training Schools To Be Opened,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 16, 1895, p. 9..
- Robert Lindblom Technical High School Building Landmark Designation Report, City of Chicago April 1, 2010, p. 7.