The History of Chicago Ephpheta School for the Deaf
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
Ephpheta School for the Deaf opened as a day school for grade school-aged students in 1884 by the Rev. Arnold
Damen at Holy Family Parish on West 12th Street before moving to the rear of St. Joseph's Home at 1100 South May three
years later. Two students were enrolled when the school first opened, increasing to 15 by the end of the year, then nearly
doubled to 28 at the end of the second school year. When the school moved to St. Joseph's Home, it also began to accept boarding
The school was supported by volunteer contributions made to the Ephpheta Society, and operated by the Daughters
of the Heart of Mary order. The only requirements for being accepted at the school was be of sound mind and good morals, and
no child was turned down due to lack of funds (thanks to the aforementioned society).
Ephpheta continued to grow and by 1893 it had 77 students...45 of which lived at the school, which incorporated
in 1896. In 1898, it was decided that only female students were allowed to attend because the school was overcrowded. Once
new facilities were built at 3100 North Crawford (later renamed Pulaski in 1933) at Belmont on the city's northwest
side, males were once again welcomed in 1909.
Whether the school actually offered high school course work is inconclusive. according to sources that were
contacted. The Archdiocese of Chicago's Joseph Cardinal Bernadin Archives informed us that Ephpheta did offer classes
for boys 14 and older that were day students around that time, but the Daughters of the Heart of Mary's archive
department tell us that there is no concrete information that the school taught high school classes. But since
the school did exist for those of high school age, we have decided to list an entry about this institution.
The school's main thrust was to teach their students how to fit in society in the early part of
the 20th Century, as boys were taught industrial and trade classes, while girls received training in domestic sciences, millinery,
and dress making.
Ephpheta continued to educate those children that were hard of hearing until 1950 when it closed and was
sold to the Sisters of St. Francis of Kunegunda. Madonna High School moved into the building and stayed there until it closed in 2001. The building (pictured above) was vacated by Madonna somewhere
around 1970 when they moved into another facility nearby, and was torn down to make way for a Franciscan nursing home (St.
Joseph's Center) which is still there today