Saturday, September 25, 2021

Holy Cross - Mother Guerin High Schools

This is one of those stories not directly related to real estate. Though, on the fringe I suppose it is. It is not related to San Antonio either, but rather a step back in time when I lived in my birth city of Chicago.

Taking you back to the beginning of Holy Cross High School, River Grove, IL….   It opened in 1961, I was in the next class 1962-1966 and was excited about the new school as it was less than 2 blocks from my house. Before it opened, I was destined to go to St Pats a moderate bus ride down Belmont Avenue. 

The land for the new school was undeveloped and heavily wooded. It was by no means "citified". The development was the biggest “news” in the neighborhood that was typically Chicago Northwest residential. As kids we played at the construction site on weekends. There was a huge hill perfect for bike riding, no brakes! One of the guys did get hurt going downhill, no hands.  That challenge proved not to be a good idea. However, following a few stitches, we all went back and played on the site until we were chased away…  and then they added that darned fence!

Finally, the school opened its doors. After years of Catholic education under the guidance of nuns, it was quite a shock to be taught by brothers. It was all part of growing up in that era. The school was considered a prep school for future college attendees. It was not a school that offered shop or trades. We had intramural and competitive sports, but never a swimming pool. There were efforts made to fund raise for a pool, but never enough money – a minor downside of a private school. No pool did not seem much of an issue as we still had a swim team – they just had to go down the street to St Pats. We survived.

In those days, tuition was less than a thousand dollars, actually I think it was around 5 or 600 dollars. My parents struggled to afford it as did many others but they got it done. The annual enrolment was around 400 and the school prospered. Everyone looked forward to new education and building a future, after all, we were Holy Cross Crusaders. I can honestly say that during the years watching the school being built, attending for 4 years and even after, never once did I think about them shutting the doors – and later being torn down.

Once Holy Cross was up and running they started construction of our next door neighbor Mother Guerin High School. It opened in 1963. There was a time the girls shared some of our facilities – like the athletics and gym. And there was a time when one of our coaches forgot what day it was and who was in the facility. That is a hilarious memory – but not one for sharing here. Eventually, the girls school was completed and Mother Guerin along with Holy Cross were the pride of the neighborhood.

Holy Cross floundered in 2004. Enrollment was down and expenses up. Tuition was unbelievably expensive and for many, unaffordable. Talks took place and an agreement was reached to merge Holy Cross with Mother Guerin, the new name taken was Guerin Prep. A great resource for more information can be found at:  http://www.illinoishsglorydays.com/id426.html 


As I was researching some facts for this article, I stumbled on something that has totally shocked me. Earlier I mentioned St Pats. Turns out St Pats is one of the oldest continuously run high schools in Chicago – going all the way back to 1861 (that is NOT a typo). More on that here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Patrick_High_School_(Chicago) . My god – the great Chicago Fire did not happen until 1871. It is going to take me a few minutes to continue writing this story.



It seems the destiny of Guerin Prep was the same as that of Holy Cross. Following low enrollment of the 2019-2020 academic year, history repeated and a decision was made to close the school. The end of an era had come. The land was sold and the buildings torn down. I am told the approximate 20 acre site will be redeveloped into townhomes and condos. 

New generations will not know the history of that land, nor the adventures and experiences of the thousands of students that passed through those halls for decades. But, those who had the good fortune to attend those two schools will carry the memories and no doubt pass along something they learned in those formative years – and life will go on. It is an interesting life experience to have watched your school be built – and then torn down. The circle of life is more than just a movie.








I understand the mosaic originally from Mother Guerin has been rescued and may one day have a new home. Let us hope so.




  






Thank you to my cousins Lee and Kathy, and Kathy’s friend Mary Lou for making these photos available. 

If anyone wants to post a memory or share a story about either school you are welcome to do so. Either use the comment feature or write your own article and I’ll create a new post for you – follow this:  https://www.sanantoniorealestate.blog/p/guest-articles.html   (we’ll share stories under rule #11)

And, finally a school video:

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