|The History of Chicago St. Patrick High School for Girls/West Side
(NOTE: Not to be confused with St. Patrick High School for Girls/Southeast Side)
Chicago (population: 2.8 million) is located along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeastern Illinois. From its early days as a Potawatomie settlement, then as the site of Fort Dearborn in 1803, which led up to the formation of the city and its incorporation in 1833 and 1837, respectively, the “City of Big Shoulders” became a major location in the US for various reasons. Railroads and water transportation were two reasons why Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the country during the 19th Century.
Today, numerous railroads and highways of interstate, US, state, and local designations bring people together in the city on a daily basis, as does air traffic at O’Hare and Midway Airports. Chicago is a melting pot of people from many nationalities, making it ethnically diverse, and thus, is referred to as “the cultural, economic, and financial capital of the Midwest” (according to Wikipedia).
St. Patrick High School for Girls was opened in 1871 in Old St. Patrick Parish on Des Plaines Street on the West Side of the city. The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul were the ones who saw to it that the doors were opened on September 8th of that year, a month before the Great Chicago Fire. The school was partnered with a boys’ academy of the same name, run by the Christian Brothers.
In 1900, the school was closed due to economic and social changes, but three years later, it reopened by offering a two-year commercial department. It would not be until 1928 when the course of study expanded to four years.
As the post-World War II building and travelling boom continued, there were changes made to the campus. The Northwest Expressway (now known as the Kennedy, or Interstate 90) cut thru the campus and claimed the girls’ building along with the grade school and convent that the sisters lived in during the early 1950’s. However, Samuel Cardinal Stritch asked that a new school be built for the boys on the city’s Northwest Side, then the girls could occupy their former location after that.
A new convent was also built along with a grade school, and the St. Patrick girls were able to relocate into the boys’ old building (after attending classes at St. Mel High School in split shifts) in 1954. The enrollment during the ’50’s was in the middle 300’s with a peak of 391 during the 1961-62 school year. St. Patrick’s girls moved again in 1967 following the closing of the grade school. It was spacious enough to add biology and chemistry labs, as well as a library and business department.
Unfortunately, the school faced many issues, including neighborhood changes. It was becoming more inner-city and very close to being completely industrialized by 1970. After having 240 students enrolled in the fall of 1969, it was decided to close St. Patrick’s for Girls and allow other schools (albeit larger) to educate those students with a wide variety of classes and programs that were not available at St. Patrick’s.
With Archdiocesan approval, on recommendation of the council of Sisters who oversaw the school, St. Patrick’s High School for Girls graduated its final class in the spring of 1970. The remaining students were assisted by the faculty in making a choice with regard to their transfer to another school.