Chicago South Division High School

                     The History of Chicago South Division High School

South Division High School
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Wendell Phillips High School
Possible home of South Division HS? (courtesy of


Chicago (population 2.8 million) is located in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County.  Lake Michigan, the Chicago and Illinois Rivers, and the Des Plaines River are the main waterways to and from town. Interstates 55, 57, 90, and 94 will all lead you to the “Windy City.” From what started as a small village in the early 1800’s, Chicago has grown to the nation’s third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world.

South Division High School was opened in 1875 at 26th and Wabash on Chicago’s South Side as a facility designed to relieve overcrowding at Chicago Central High School. Along with North Division and West Division, South Division only accepted freshmen and sophomores from 1875-82 when it was decided to close Central and let the three newer schools have a full, four-year compliment of students.

The school continued to gain more and more students as the city grew during the 1890’s, especially for those who were African-Americans that became residents of Chicago. In 1905, it was decided to close South Division and reopen it as Wendell Phillips High School, which it remains today.

It is unsure as to whether or not the Phillips High building was actually built while the school was known as South Division…however, the architectural look of the photo shown above may give some clues, so it is possible that it could have housed South Division students (which was designed by architects F.N. Chellus and Otto Schoening).


Year opened (as 2-yr school):                      1875

Year increased to 4-yr school:                     1882

Year closed and reopened as Phillips:         1905

School nickname:                                        unknown

School song:                                                unknown

School colors:                                              unknown

ATHLETICS AND OTHER EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIESSouth Division was active in sports, and was a charter member of the Cook County League in 1890 with football and indoor baseball (softball). South Division along with a number of Chicago schools were in competition with each other during the turn of 20th Century, competiting with Oak Park and Evanston High Schools in addition to the other city schools.TRACKThis sport was the headliner at South Division with a number of state championships won by individuals, including Eli Randall at the third-ever state meet in Champaign-Urbana. The school won two team titles in Cook County League action, as the sport continued to grow and in 1902, South Division was state champ. Two other teams finished in the top five of the state.

1895   3RD in STATE!!

           Cook County League Indoor Champions


1  Chicago Englewood                  26

2  Rockford HS                              20

3  Chicago South Division            16  

4  Springfield HS                           14

5  Urbana HS                                 12

5  Mattoon                                    12


Eli Randall                           100-yd dash—STATE CHAMPION!!!  (time :10 4/5)
50-yd dash—STATE CHAMPION!!!  (time :06 3/5)

Fred Bascom                        1-mile run—2nd place

                                             880-yd run—2nd place

1901 Hugo Friend                 Long Jump—3rd place
1901 Clarence Buckwalter    220-yd hurdles—3rd place

1902 STATE CHAMPIONS!!! & Cook County League Champions  

  State Final Standings

1  Chicago South Division           31

2  Paris                                         14

3  Centralia                                   10

3  Chicago Englewood                 10

3  Pontiac                                     10


    2/3-mile relay—STATE CHAMPIONS!!! (time 2:12 2/5)
(Members: Clarence Buckwalter, Paul Dickey, Paul Henderson, and Horovitz)

Clarence Buckwalter      220-yd hurdles—2nd place
440-yd dash—STATE CHAMP!! (time :52.0)         

Paul Dickey                        Pole Vault—STATE CHAMP!! (height 10′ 1 1/2″)
Paul Henderson                 100-yd dash—STATE CHAMP!!! (time :10 4/5)
220-yd dash—STATE CHAMP!!! (time :24.0)
50-yd dash—2nd place 

1903 Tied for 5th in State

Team Final Standings

1   Chicago Hyde Park             24

2   Jacksonville HS                   14

3   Pontiac                               10

4   Anna                                    7

5   Chicago South Division, Minonk, Henry, Chicago Manual, and Evanston Township—6 each


Harry Anderson                      1-mile run—STATE CHAMP!!! (time 4:41)

L.H. Bremer                             220-yd dash—3rd place

FOOTBALLSouth Division did compete on the gridiron, and made history doing so in the process. According to the chronology on the IHSA site ( about the sport’s history, Lake View beat South Division in 1885 in what is considered the first-known football game between two Illinois high schools.Here’s another note of interest involving South Division’s football program. In 1902. Walter Eckersall of Chicago Hyde Park returned a kickoff 110 yards against South Division. That is a record that will never be broken, because at that time, the field was 110 instead of the current 100 yards long. (The length was shortened in 1912.)GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

The school offered the sport to the girls during the early 1900’s, and we did find one thing of interest. The South Division ladies had one of the lowest scoring games in state prep history as they defeated Medill on January 23rd, 1904, by the score of 3-1.


South Division’s boys were involved in the Cook County League as early as 1890, playing against the likes of Harvard, West Division, and Manual Training. The school won the CCL title in 1902, and sent one player to the major leagues as John Kane played from 1907-1910 with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs as a utility player. In 261 games, he hit .220 with seven home runs and 59 runs batted in, according to Baseball (


Even the school got into playing the indoor version of baseball in the winter months around the turn of the 20th Century. In 1896, North DivisionWest DivisionEnglish (now Crane Tech), South Chicago (now Bowen), and Medill along with South Division were members of the Cook County League, which had formed league play six years earlier.


–Henry Blake Fuller—notable literary figure of the late 19th century, writing poetry, theater, and novels.

–Hugo Friend (class of 1902)—He participated in the 1906 Olympic Games at Athens, taking third in the long jump and fourth in the 110-meter hurdles. He became a judge and presided at the 1921 trial of the Black Sox.

Alice Gray (class of 1897)—Author Janet Edwards discusses who she was:

“Hello, I just ran across the website regarding South Division High School and saw the request for any additional info. I believe another famous alum of the school is Alice Gray, better known as “Diana of the Dunes,” a legendary figure who lived in the Indiana Dunes from 1915-1925 and became a sensation in the Chicago and Indiana press over those years.

“You can google her to find more info; also, I’ve written a book about her: “Diana of the Dunes, The True Story of Alice Gray.”

“From my book:

“However, it appears she was among the most successful students. During the 1895 graduation ceremonies, two years before Alice’s own, she received one of two Victor F. Lawson medals awarded for academic excellence.[i]

“At the age of sixteen, Alice graduated from South Division High School[ii] on June 24, 1897, in a ceremony held at Sinai Temple on Indiana Avenue and Twenty-first Street. She was the youngest in a class of ninety students. Among her fellow graduates was her cousin, Sylvester Beers.

“During the graduation proceedings, just one student addressed the audience—Alice M. Gray, who read an essay titled “The Old Teutonic Home.” The keynote address was given by Dr. S.J. McPherson of the Second Presbyterian Church, who spoke on “The School, the Home and the Country.”[iii]

[i] Chicago Daily Tribune, “South Division High School,” June 28, 1895.

[ii] South Division was later renamed Wendell Phillips High School and relocated.

[iii] Chicago Tribune, “End High School Day,” June 25, 1897.


“Thank you for your consideration. I hope you find this information useful …”

Alice Gray, South Division class of 1897
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Courtesy of Janet Edwards from


Then let us know, please. We’ll be glad to take a look at records, names of famous alumni, words to the school song, school colors and nickname, and more. Please contact us at either address listed below:

by e-mail:

by USPS: Illinois High School Glory Days, 6439 North Neva, Chicago, IL 60631

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