Chicago Loretto Academy (Woodlawn)

Loretto Academy
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Courtesy of Ellen DePriest
Chicago Loretto Academy (Original Building)
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Submitted by Ellen DePriest

The History of Chicago Loretto Academy 

Chicago (population 2.8 million) was established in the early 1800’s along the banks of Lake MIchigan and the Chicago River. Chicago sits in the far northeastern portion of Illinois in the center of Cook County. Interstate Highways 55, 57, 90, and 94 all lead you to Chicago. Several Illinois Routes also lead to and from Chicago.

Chicago has been the home to several parochial schools throughout the years. Among them was Loretto Academy. This all-girls’ Catholic high school was located on the city of Chicago’s east side. The school building was erected at 65th Street and Blackstone Avenue in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, near where Mount Carmel High School for Boys is located today.

The Academy was founded by a group of catholic nuns known as the Ladies of Loretto, who were invited by the Carmelite fathers to open a school for girls. The Lorettines did so with 30 students enrolled on January 6, 1906 at St. Cyril’s Parish.

Ethel Louise Monarque’s Class Ring of 1914
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Submitted by her Great-Granddaughter Peggy Talbot

Loretto Academy remained all-girls’ the entire time it was open, beginning as a grade and high school that accepted day & boarding students. In 1925, it discontinued the grade school, while the boarding practice ended in 1933. The high school continued to serve the area for several more decades.

In 1962, the school accepted students from Loretto High School in the nearby Englewood neighborhood when it closed, which stopped the confusion of Loretto High School and Loretto Academy (both of which were all-girls’ schools that were located on the south side, and run by the same order of nuns!).

Five years later in 1967, the school reached a three-fold event. First of all, it accepted more transfer students when St. Elizabeth (another all-girls’ school) closed. Second, it posted the enrollment to a peak of over 350 students, the most in school history, and third, the school caught up with the changes in the neighborhood by having an all African-American student body. This was the result of people coming from the Deep South to find better opportunities in the Windy City, which had been begun as early as 1920.

Loretto Academy also accepted slow-learning students as the result of a program started in 1966 with the Archdiocese of Chicago. Those students could take advantage of getting a four-year diploma as well as working experience with retail giant Sears Roebuck for two years in a work-study program before looking for a job in a normal setting.

The school eventually consolidated with Mercy High School (another all-girls’ school) in 1972 to form Unity High School. The Loretto Academy building was sold to a neighborhood organization, which offered adult education classes thru Kennedy-King College. The fate of the building is unknown at this time.

Loretto Academy Quick Facts

Year opened:                           1906

Year closed:                             1972

Consolidated to:                       Unity Catholic High School

School athletic information:      See below

School colors:                           Light blue and white

School newspaper:                  The Spire

School yearbook:                     The Lorettan

Loretto Academy 1950’s
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Courtesy of Ellen DePriest

The girls of Loretto Academy participated in G.A.A. and other activities to help them achieve physical fitness. The school closed (1972) before the IHSA officially recognized and sponsored girls athletics (1974). However, the school was among a pioneering group of high schools that participated in interscholastic athletics, as evidenced by the following facts provided by historian Robert Pruter.

As early as 1927, Loretto was part of the Catholic High School Girls’ Basketball League, competing against VisitationLoretto HighLongwoodSt. Catherine (later known as Siena)St. XavierSt. MaryMercy, St. Scholastica, Evanston Marywood, and Wilmette Mallickrodt. The school did not win a conference championship and the league broke up in 1932 when the Catholic Youth Organization formed its own league.

In 1940, according to a story on the IHSA website (, the Loretto girls were participants in a volleyball tournament with other all-girls catholic high schools including LourdesLoretto HighSt. Martin Commercial, and Mercy.

If you any further information you wish to share regarding the athletic exploits of Loretto Academy, please contact us via the means listed below.

Extra-Curricular Activities 

We are certain that there were many extra-curricular activities that were a fun and educational part of the Loretto High School experience. Band, chorus, student government, plays, and many other activities were likely offered throughout the school year.


From Evelyn Wright (class of 1965):

I attended Loretto (Englewood) my first year….our school closed…last 3 years at Loretto Academy – Woodlawn….what was best:

1. Glee Club…I didn’t know it at the time that the Mary Poppins songs would forever be with me. Which, by the way, I love to sing even today.

2. There was also the Sodality of Our Lady Club…I was a member…we met in the school library

3. Where uniforms…were such a blessing.

4. Loretto offered Business Ed or College courses…I sincerely appreciate my typing/shorthand teacher, Mother Clarice…because of her, I was the fastest typist as well as #1 writing and transcribing Gregg Shorthand. This skill afforded me employment…and saved my dad.

5. Dedicated Nuns…I help pay my tuition by working at the School/Convent so I got to know the nuns quite well as they did me. They were the best.”

From Tom Crane:

“I remember Loretto Academy quite well. I attended Mount Carmel High School from where I graduated in 1952. I am now 80 years old.

“Also I lived a 66th and Ingleside at the time and was fortunate to have 3 very beautiful girls living next door to me. They were the Shanley sisters whose names were Mary, Nancy, and Jeanne. They all served as cheer-leaders for the MC football team. Mary was the oldest, then Nancy and Jeanne.

“I am saddened to think how time has passed, but then again fortunate to have such warm memories.”

From Judy (Mangan) Wisniewski (class of 1954):

“I noted while reading the interesting article on Loretto (Woodlawn) under some of the facts about Loretto, it stated that the school colors “were not known.” They were a light blue and white (know for sure those were our colors) and believe they were in honor of the Blessed Virigin Mary. The Loretto Sisters are still around and have a motherhouse in Wheaton, Illinois.

“My husband was a Mt. Carmel graduate, and in a way that is how we first met. I was attending a forum at Carmel one Sunday as was he. We were sophomores at the time and eventually were married for 52 years. but he passed away in 2009.

“By the way, I sent the link to “Illinois High School Glory Days” to the gals from Loretto I am still in contact with. We were a small, pretty close class.

“I attended Quincy College, which at one time was a seminary. I think the year I started was about the 2nd or 3rd year when they first started admitting women and I had a scholarship.”

From Daisy Kathleen Curry (class of 1968):

“Greetings! In commemoration of our 50th year as graduates of Loretto Academy (Class of 1968), a few of us have planned a fabulous cruise. This being such a momentous occasion, the cruise is open to others, outside of our class, including other Loretta Alumna, family and friends to share in the celebration and festivities with us.

“The cruise liner departs from the Port of Seattle, Washington on Friday, August 10, 2018, for a 7-night Alaska cruise visiting: Ketchikan, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Alaska Inside Passage, and, Victoria Canada. We will return to the Port of Seattle on August 17, 2018.

“Passports are required for this cruise. Visit the State department website for complete information: (

“A refundable deposit of $250.00 per person is due by May 30, 2017 and the balance will be due by May 7, 2018. Prices include all taxes and port charges. After the initial deposit is paid, payments can be made, in any amount, as long as the balance is paid in full by final payment due date.

“There can be up to 4 occupants in some designated cabins. (Note: As you view the deck and cabin map, triangle and square icons designate cabins that will sleep 3 to 4 persons. Also note, all cabins are the same size, within category, regardless whether there are 2, 3 or 4 occupants in the cabin).

“Ocean View cabins and Suites have limited availability and must be reserved with the deposit payment. Again, availability and pricing is based on the time of booking.

“A group of cabins are currently reserved but are only available for a limited time. Upon expiry date, cabins may still be available, but may not be located within the initial cabin group. Cabin availability and cabin locations are limited, so don’t delay in reserving your cabin.

“Here is the link for more information about the cruise ship, cabin types (layout and prices) and the cruise itinerary:

“Then, in the far left upper corner, from the drop down menu, select “Group Travel” and then scroll down to “Loretto Academy”. You will also find contact information for Gary Jones, our cruise planner on this site. He will happily clarify any of the above information or respond to any questions you may have. We all hope to see you on board!

P.S: Wouldn’t it be great if several different classes, from Loretto, are represented! Please do give the trip some consideration.”

Do You Have Information You Can Share?   

If you do, please contact us at Photos are welcome, as well as memories. You may also send items to us via “real” mail at:

IHSGD Website

6439 N. Neva Ave.

Chicago, Il.   60631 


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