Chicago Lewis Institute High School

Lewis Institute
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Credit: Lake County Discovery Museum/Curt Teich Postcard Archives

The History of Chicago Lewis Institute High School

Chicago (population approximately 2,800,000) is situated in the far northeastern portion of Illinois in the heart of Cook County. Highways leading to and from Chicago include I-55, I-57, I-88, I-90, and I-94. Several railways also take you into the nation’s third largest city. Lake Michigan serves as Chicago’s eastern border and was vital (and still is today) to Chicago’s early growth and economy.

The area in which Chicago is located was first settled in the very early 1800’s. The mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan served as an important waterway from the east to the west. The town was organized in 1832 and chartered as a city in 1837. Chicago’s population that year was 4,180.

By the late 1800’s, Chicago was a boom town, the population increasing at a rapid rate. Along with this boom came the need for education. Residents saw to it that their children were given many opportunities. Along with the growth of public schools came the establishment of several private and parochial schools. Lewis Institute was one of these schools.

Lewis Institute was located on the city’s west side in the area of where the United Center now stands. The history of the school can be found on the Illinois Institute of Technology webpage of The school is named after its chief financial backer, Allen Cleveland Lewis. Though he died in 1877, his estate left enough money to create Lewis Institute in 1895 to begin the building of the school. It was decided, as the article states:

“Lewis Institute was incorporated to offer a four-year high school course in technical subjects and liberal arts, and an additional two years of college work in arts and engineering. While the actual term “junior college” is not used in this specific grant, Lewis really became the first junior college to be established in the United States.”

Courses were being offered in the 1896-97 school year. Lewis flourished as both a college and a high school through the middle of World War I. With the ever increasing demand for college in the making, the decision was made to cease the high school operation of the Institute in 1917.

Lewis Institute merged with Armour Institute of Technology in 1940 to form what is now known as Illinois Institute of Technology.

Lewis Institute High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                                  1896

Year HS courses ceased:                1917

Lewis Inst. HS team nickname:        unavailable

Lewis Inst. HS team colors:             unavailable

School Fight Song:                         unavailable

Lewis Institute
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courtesy of Marjorie Warvelle Bear’s “A Mile Square of Chicago”

We know that the boys of Lewis Institute competed in interscholastic sports. The boys were involved in water polo, swimming, and track & field competition for sure. We believe the boys may have competed in basketball, baseball, and possibly golf as well. We are searching for the following items; school team nickname, uniform colors, fight song, coaches names, and other great accomplishments.

The school requested permission to join the Academic League in 1900, but was rejected due to the fact that it offered education to two-year college students, according to historian Robert Pruter. The college was an issue because some students were either 21 years of age or beyond it, but Lewis officials tried to reason with league officials that those under 21 at the high school would not be allowed to participate in league contests, but were denied admission.


In 1916, Lewis finished 5th in the state Class “C” Track Meet. This is not a misprint. Class “C” was reserved that year for Illinois private schools and out-of-state schools who wished to compete. According to the IHSA website, this was the only year there were three classes (A,B, and C) offered in IHSA history for track & field.


1   Evanston Academy                   48

2   Lake Forest Academy               25

3   Braxil, Indiana                           25

4   Chicago Morgan Park Academy 18

  5   Chicago Lewis Institute          10

6   Onarga Grand Prairie Seminary   6

7   St. Joseph, Michigan                  4

Individual Medalist for Lewis Institute

H. Zerwer                  100-yd dash—STATE ‘C’ CHAMPION!!! (time :10 3/5)
50-yd dash—STATE ‘C’ CHAMPION!!! (time :06.0)


The very early 1900’s saw the development of several competitions around the state between the early high schools of the day. In Chicago, schools were offered the chance to compete in the sports of water polo and a few swimming competitions. According to the IHSAs H S.toric portion, Lewis was active in these sports as well (


From Ray Featherstone:

“I enjoyed reading the information on the history of Lewis Institute on your website since both my father and his brother were students there in 1912. They were members of Gamma Rho fraternity at the time. I still have my father’s copy of the 1912 Lewis Annual which has some entertaining as well as educational topics of interest.”


If you do, please contact us via e-mail at You can also mail items to us at the following address:

IHSGD Website

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.  60631

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