Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dennis Farina, real-life and...

...television detective, died at age 69. I combed through his obit in the Times to see where the Chicago native went to high school. Mount Carmel? St. Rita? DePaul? But after some digging I found out that Farina attended St. Michael Central High School (above), which closed in 1978. How come I had never heard of this place? (My emphasis.)

St. Michael's Central High School, located in the Old Town section of Chicago at North and Hudson Avenues (near Wells Street), was opened as a two-year, co-institutional parish school with a commercial program in 1887. Instead of being a co-educational school (with boys and girls attending classes together), each gender was educated at separate ends of the building. The boys were under the direction of the Brothers of Mary, and the girls were taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The educational focus changed from commercial to academic in 1923, by which time there were four years of classes for boys (which started in 1919), and the girls section became four years in 1924. A new building was also opened in 1928, which coincided with the designation of being a central high school for Catholic students on the north side of the Chicago River, just west of Lincoln Park. 

St. Michael Central's enrollment was steady during the 1950's and 1960's, reaching 754 in 1967, but it dwindled to 575 by 1973, which may have the reason that the school became co-ed in the fall of 1976. It was not enough to save the school, due to the increasing operating expenses that mounted and the deteriorating condition of the building, and St. Michael Central closed its doors in the spring of 1978 after having 468 students attend class there.

The school gym was torn down some time later, but the majority of the school was renovated and became the home of luxury condominiums inside the Old Town Triangle, which has received both city and National Landmark Status. There is a street just west of Hudson and north of North Avenue that is called St. Michaels Court that pays tribute to the fact that the school existed nearby.

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