Chicago Vocational Career Academy | The Most Beautiful Places in Chicago
Chicago Vocational Career Academy
It just underscores the importance of education. And I’ll even go one step [further]: the importance of education to a working class community.…[W]e’re not going to build you a barn or a box or thing that looks like a warehouse. But we’re going to give you something that brings class and beauty to the things that you’re going to learn.— Lee Bey, architecture critic
Architecture critic and photographer Lee Bey talks South Side architecture with Geoffrey.
Chicago Vocational Career Academy sits in all its impressive beauty in the city’s Avalon Park community area on the South Side. Formerly called the Chicago Vocational High School, it opened in 1941 to train its then-all-male student population in various trades. “The idea was to create a school for boys that would prepare them for that future,” architecture critic Lee Bey told Geoffrey Baer. “There was a wood shop…there was an auto shop, metal shop.” Some of the funding for the school’s construction came from the Public Works Administration, the federal New Deal agency that built infrastructure such as bridges, dams, and schools. The large school – second in size only to Lane Tech College Prep on the North Side – resembles a factory and is designed in the art moderne style. Its facade features relief sculptures that portray some of the trades taught at the school, including a printing press and a band saw. According to Bey’s book, Southern Exposure, when the school opened, it was built to serve some 6,000 students, but that number has dwindled dramatically in recent decades. In the 2022 school year, enrollment was fewer than 700 students. However, in that same year, the building finally got some recognition: it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.