Dick Butkus' High School Eyed for Partial Demolition

By DNAinfo Staff on July 18, 2013 8:12am

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 Chicago Vocational High School will see a third of its complex demolished.
Chicago Vocational
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CALUMET HEIGHTS —  Chicago Vocational High School — a massive historic structure as brawny as its most famous alumnus, Dick Butkus — will reportedly see a third of its size demolished.

WBEZ architecture blogger Lee Bey writes that the wing of Chicago Vocational seen by millions of motorists over the years from the Chicago Skyway will be torn off as part of a $42 million effort to transform the school into a tech academy.

Citing public records, Bey said the city was seeking bids to demolish the block-and-a-half wing along Anthony Avenue, as well as a hangar that once housed the school's aviation shop.

According to the school's website, Chicago Vocational, at 2100 E. 87th St., was built in 1940 for $3.5 million and designed to educate 6,000 students at a time.

In 1941, most of the school was turned over to the Navy and students were trained in aviation mechanics to aid in the World War II effort. After the war, demand for vocational training had the school running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Before he was a legendary linebacker for the Chicago Bears, Butkus was typical of the post-war generation who attended CVS: A rough-and-tumble son of Lithuanian immigrants — his father was an electrician and his mother worked in a laundry — he grew up in Roseland. Like many of the offspring of factory workers who attended CVS, Butkus saw advancement in excelling in high school sports.

He once recalled that while attending Vocational "we used to put a car in the middle of a dead-end street and push it back and forth, up and down the street."

"I'd imagine I'd be pushing entire teams up and down the field," Butkus said. Signed replicas of Butkus' CVS helmet are still sold online.

Shrinking the school, now with a predominantly African American enrollment of about 1,000 students, "is in order," Bey said.

"Still, seeing more than a third of the delta-shaped late Art Deco-designed school vanish would be a bit startling," Bey writes, describing the 27-acre CVS as "a big, beautiful complex rendered in a blocky, WPA-modern esthetic."

Other CVS sports alumni include former Bear Chris Zorich and basketball player Juwan Howard.

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