The History of Chicago St. Thomas the Apostle High School
Chicago (population 2.8 million) is in northeastern Illinois in eastern Cook County. Lake Michigan, along with the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers are the main waterways in the city. Interstates 55, 57, 90, & 94 will all lead you to the “Windy City.” From what started as a small village in the early 1800’s along the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago has grown to the nation’s third largest city and one of the most famous places in the world, as the result of an ethnically diverse community that adopted the city.
St. Thomas the Apostle High School was opened in 1916 on Chicago’s South Side in the Hyde Park neighborhood as a parish school for girls to get a high school level education. The Sisters of St. Dominic from Sinsinawa, WI opened the school in the former Ray Public School building at the corner of 55th and Kenwood Avenue, leasing it from the Chicago Public School system. The school moved to the corner of 55th and Woodlawn in 1929 when a new building was open for both elementary and high school students.
After World War II, African-American families moved into the Hyde Park neighborhood due to housing changes promoted by the University of Chicago during the latter part of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The school’s enrollment dropped from 215 in 1951 to 112 in 1961. However, there was an increase that put the student body total to over 200 in 1967 because of the building of townhomes and apartments that had more girls attending.
St. Thomas did not receive financial assistance from the Archdiocese, which might have helped somewhat with defraying operating costs. Also contributing to the school’s demise were little parish involvement in the school, declining enrollment, & not as many students from the parish were attending St. Thomas the Apostle.
In 1980, the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to close the school and three other all-girls’ schools, Aquinas, Visitation, and Unity. St. Thomas’ student body was merged with Unity to become Unity Catholic as part of the VAUT Corporate System. Unity Catholic stayed open until 1988 when it closed to form St. Martin de Porres with Willibrord and Mendel Catholic. Unfortunately, that school closed its doors in 1997.
The St. Thomas the Apostle building is still used as an elementary school.
|INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO ST. THOMAS APOSTLE HIGH SCHOOL
Year opened: 1916
Year closed: 1980
School colors: unknown
School nickname: unknown
School song: unknown
In researching the school, we were only able to come up with one sport that the school offered while it was open, but feel that there may have been more. Track and field was the sport that we did get information on, but could it be possible that other sports such as volleyball and basketball were offered as well? Please let us know if you have any information regarding other sports at St. Thomas the Apostle. In order to round out a young lady’s educational experience at the school, one might think that St. Thomas the Apostle probably had clubs, dances, band, chorus, and theatre, but there was no record of those when researching.
TRACK & FIELD
One athlete brought home a second place medal from the state class A meet in the school’s final year as the doors were about to close. Cheryl Chrismon represented her school in the long jump, and came close to taking the state title.
1980A Cheryl Chrismon Long Jump—-2nd place
The Illinois Theatre Festival is the largest, non-competetive high school theatre festival in the world. It was organized in 1976 by teachers from the Chicago suburbs. This festival is still going strong as they perform at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) and Illinois State University every other January. St. Thomas the Apostle participated in this festival from 1976-77.
“I attended to St. Thomas the Apostle Grammar School (boys and girls) from March, 1942 to June, 1950 – continuing in the all-girls high school and graduating in June, 1954. (My mother had lived in the area when she was young and had also attended in 3rd and 6th grade. I don’t remember why the time spacing.)
“STA was built in the shape of an H, with the grammar school on one side, front entrance (on Woodlawn) & gym as the first floor center, and the cafeteria above that on the second floor. The high school was on the other side of the H. In 1980 the high school was closed due to lack of students, etc., and there was a big “good-bye” get-together at the school. We had quite a large crowd from many classes at the closing.”
(from Yolande Robbins, class of 1958) “St. Thomas the Apostle was a Catholic girls’ school staffed by Dominican nuns in Hyde Park which even then was visibly, though not notably, integrated. Still it was striking in the year of the turmoil at Little Rock’s Central High to have eight African-American graduates in a class of thirty-nine. That was my class of 1958.
“Our principal was Sr. Mary Norbert; our senior homeroom advisor and teacher, Sr. Mary Marcolino. Sr. Mary Laboure was our “Crede Mihi” (see below) advisor.
“STA was classically transitional. It was situated in a university (of Chicago) neighborhood; it was a traditional, strongly Eurocentric Catholic school; but it was already finding its way among what would soon be Vatican II’s call to renewal and the winds of change here at home.
“At 17 and 18 years old, we were the children of parents who had gone through, remembered, and talked about World War II. We were possibly the last generation of children who fell asleep at night listening to the muffled conversations of grown-ups in the kitchen or living room. Our cultural references were religious and tribal, yet surprisingly universal. We knew who the pope was (Pius XII) and his archenemy, the Communists. We had been referencing Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers for a decade or more. We had heard about Haile Selassie. And we knew who Ralph Bunche was. More, I think, than any subsequent generation, we were on speaking terms with the world.
“One of the most memorable events of that year was the arrival of Marianne Horvath, a non-English speaking Hungarian teen who had survived the Hungarian Revolution and made it to the US — and Chicago — with her family. We were already in session when she came, and we immediately tagged her, “The Refugee.” But we all felt involved in her struggle and success, grandly achieved in enough mastery of English to have a part in our play. She was a strikingly beautiful girl.
“Our drama teacher, whose name escapes me now, had a new baby boy that year (which would make him about 51 now), and I remember she was starring in local theatre, in a production of “The Glass Menagerie”, I think.
“One of our classmates, Carol Maxey, I think, was an “army brat” who’d lived all over the world.
“And, of course, there was Sputnik!
“At the end of the school day, we all retreated to our own teen haven somewhere there on school or church property where we played the latest “hits” and danced under the watchful eye of young Fr. Cunningham who prayed as we had our more worldly good times.
“Making use of the Latin that was still so much a part of our lives at that time, we produced an end-of-the-year annual called “CREDE MIHI” (“Believe In Me”) which, in retrospect, sounded both threatening and optimistic, but not a bad way to encapsulate both hope and possibility at the end of the ’50s. Both, it seems, were well warranted.
“The members of STA’s Class of ’58 were:
Mary Ellen Barry
Antoinette (Toni) Durkin
WE CAN USE SOME MORE HELP….
to tell more about St. Thomas the Apostle High School. Please contact us if you have any information, such as school colors, nickname, song, any other sports/extra-curricular activities, or even a photo of the school. Our address is:
by email: dr.veeman@gmail,com
or by USPS:
Illinois High School Glory Days
6439 North Neva
Chicago, IL 60631