Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School
4747 South Union Avenue
Historical profile by Elizabeth A. Patterson
Located on Chicago’s south side in the New City neighborhood, Tilden Career Community Academy High School had its beginnings as Lake High School. The original sixteen-room Lake High building was constructed in the 1880s to serve the needs of Lake Township, the home of the Union Stock Yards, and one of a number of outlying areas annexed by Chicago in 1889. After annexation, Lake High continued to function as the high school for the immediately surrounding city neighborhood, which included the solid homes of middle managers and clerks in the meat packing industry, as well as the residences of an increasing number of immigrant laborers. (1)
By the mid-1890s, as Chicago experienced rapid industrial growth, schools suffered from overcrowding. By the fall of 1897, Dr. A.F. Nightingale, Assistant Superintendent in charge of high schools, stated that Lake High School was “in a very crowded condition.” (2) By early 1901, the Board of Education was making plans to expand the school to accommodate the children of both professionals and laborers from the surrounding Stock Yards community. The sixteen-room addition would not only relieve overcrowding at the nearby Englewood High, but would
…especially furnish facilities for the very best instruction, and in a neighborhood where the children are eager for an education and appreciate every privilege afforded to secure the same. (3)
Board Architect William B. Mundie soon began to “sketch plans” and then prepared construction documents for a three-and-a-half-story building just east of the original structure. (4) In keeping with his many other schools in the Classical Revival style, Mundie’s red brick Lake High addition featured a limestone base, pilasters topped by Ionic capitals, and a pedimented stone entrance facing 47th Street. Inside, the addition included a gymnasium as well as two mechanical drawing rooms, a forge shop, a machine shop, an electrical shop, and a foundry. (5) The latter rooms were intended to further the Board of Education’s recently-adopted plan to establish “a two-year course of study in manual training and household arts in all of the high schools of the city.” (6) Through this policy, the Board hoped to “make the work of the schools of more practical value to the children of Chicago.” (7)
Mundie resigned by the time the Lake High addition opened in September 1905. (8) A decade later, in 1915, the Board of Education renamed Lake High in memory of Edward F. Tilden (1858-1915), one of its former members. A successful banker and meat packing executive who had also served on the school board of Lake Township before annexation, Tilden lived on nearby Emerald Avenue, which the Chicago Daily Tribune called “the Lake Shore drive of the town of Lake.” (9)
In that same year, the Board of Education authorized Board Architect Arthur F. Hussander to draw up plans for a new addition. (10) Hussander’s scheme called for razing the 1886 structure as well as residences on the block, and wrapping an L-shaped addition around Mundie’s remaining 1905 section of the building. The sprawling, three-and-one-half story addition would have a prominent main entrance facing west on Union and a secondary entrance facing 48th Street.
Hussander envisioned an imposing, classically detailed building. Each of the three points of the L was anchored by a wedding cake-like block comprising a raised basement of limestone, a two-story middle layer adorned with triads of tall, double-hung windows separated by flat, engaged columns, and a third floor pierced by arch-topped window pairs and crowned by a cornice with oversized dentil molding and pedimented parapet walls. The expanses of wall and window that ran between were set back to emphasize the elaborate corners.
The looming possibility of America’s participation in World War I soon slowed the Board of Education’s building program, and Hussander’s plan did not move forward for several more years. In 1919, the Board voted to make Tilden an all-male technical high school; the last of the girls had departed by 1921. (11) Construction of Hussander’s addition finally began in the summer of 1922, though the he had been replaced as board architect several years earlier. (12) In any event, when the 34-room addition opened in 1924, it provided much-needed additional classrooms, a library, a lunchroom, and a large auditorium, where in 1928 John Philip Sousa conducted a student band. (13)
In the following decades, artist James Edwin McBurney created two groupings of murals for Tilden High School. The first set of murals, executed with John Courtright and Jean Jacobs and dedicated in 1931, is located in the library. The 60 murals depict images from world history. A second set of seven murals in the foyer, created between 1935 and 1944 by McBurney and his assistants, portrays Midwestern architects and engineers. (The Chicago Conservation Center and others restored these murals ca. 2000.) (14)
The Board of Education built a final structure on the Tilden High campus in 1943. This single-story brick outbuilding facilitated Reserve Officer Training Corps programming for Tilden’s students.
In the early 1960s, Tilden returned to broad-based programming, and again became a coeducational high school. Today, in addition to its academic and Advanced Placement courses, Tilden Career Community Academy High School maintains an active JROTC program, as well as a Culinary Arts program. (15)
- John Wesley Bell, The Development of the Public High School in Chicago, PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago, 1939, p. 46; Local Community Fact Book: Chicago Metropolitan Area, 1990 (Chicago: The Chicago Fact Book Consortium, 1995), p.178; “Hand and Mind Trained in Tune at Tilden Tech,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 20, 1929.
- Forty-First Annual Report of the board of Education for the Year Ending June 28, 1895, p. 91; Forty-Third Annual Report of the board of Education for the Year Ending June 25, 1897, p. 61.
- Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1901, p. 83; Proceedings of the Chicago Board of Education, May 28, 1902, p. 503; Forty-Eighth Annual Report of the board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1902, p. 17.
- Proceedings, October 1, 1902, p. 134, and June 24, 1903, p. 642.
- “2,200 Students at Tilden, But No Ponytails!,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 10, 1953.
- Fiftieth Annual Report of the Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1904, p. 23.
- Proceedings, October 11, 1905. The date of the Lake High addition’s opening during the tenure of the next Board Architect, Dwight H. Perkins, has sometimes caused confusion with regard to its attribution.
- “Hand and Mind Trained in Tune at Tilden Tech,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 20, 1929; “Edward Tilden,” Notable Men of Chicago and Their City (Chicago: Chicago Daily Journal, 1910), p. 368.
- Sixty-first Annual Report of the Chicago Board of Education for the Year Ending June 30, 1915, p. 206.
- “Hand and Mind,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 20, 1929.
- Proceedings, September 13, 1922.
- “John Philip Sousa conducting an orchestra at Tilden High School,” 1928 Chicago Daily News photograph, available at http://www.memory.loc.gov.
- Heather Becker, 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. 187-191.