Chicago Loretto Academy (Woodlawn)

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Loretto Academy
chicagolorettoacademywoodlawn2dav.jpg
Courtesy of Ellen DePriest

Chicago Loretto Academy (Original Building)
chgolorettoacademywoodlawndav.jpg
Submitted by Ellen DePriest

The History of Chicago Loretto Academy 
 
Chicago (population 2.8 million) was established in the early 1800's along the banks of Lake MIchigan and the Chicago River. Chicago sits in the far northeastern portion of Illinois in the center of Cook County. Interstate Highways 55, 57, 90, and 94 all lead you to Chicago. Several Illinois Routes also lead to and from Chicago.
 
Chicago has been the home to several parochial schools throughout the years. Among them was Loretto Academy. This all-girls' Catholic high school was located on the city of Chicago's east side. The school building was erected at 65th Street and Blackstone Avenue in Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, near where Mount Carmel High School for Boys is located today.
 
The Academy was founded by a group of catholic nuns known as the Ladies of Loretto, who were invited by the Carmelite fathers to open a school for girls. The Lorettines did so with 30 students enrolled on January 6, 1906 at St. Cyril's Parish.

Ethel Louise Monarque's Class Ring of 1914
chicagolorettoacademyringdav.jpg
Submitted by her Great-Granddaughter Peggy Talbot

Loretto Academy remained all-girls' the entire time it was open, beginning as a grade and high school that accepted day & boarding students. In 1925, it discontinued the grade school, while the boarding practice ended in 1933. The high school continued to serve the area for several more decades.
 
In 1962, the school accepted students from Loretto High School in the nearby Englewood neighborhood when it closed, which stopped the confusion of Loretto High School and Loretto Academy (both of which were all-girls' schools that were located on the south side, and run by the same order of nuns!).
 
Five years later in 1967, the school reached a three-fold event. First of all, it accepted more transfer students when St. Elizabeth (another all-girls' school) closed. Second, it posted the enrollment to a peak of over 350 students, the most in school history, and third, the school caught up with the changes in the neighborhood by having an all African-American student body. This was the result of people coming from the Deep South to find better opportunities in the Windy City, which had been begun as early as 1950.
 
Loretto Academy also accepted slow-learning students as the result of a program started in 1966 with the Archdiocese of Chicago. Those students could take advantage of getting a four-year diploma as well as working experience with retail giant Sears Roebuck for two years in a work-study program before looking for a job in a normal setting.
 
The school eventually consolidated with Mercy High School (another all-girls' school) in 1972 to form Unity High School. The Loretto Academy building was sold to a neighborhood organization, which offered adult education classes thru Kennedy-King College. The fate of the building is unknown at this time.
 
Loretto Academy Quick Facts
 
Year opened:                           1906
Year closed:                             1972
Consolidated to:                      Unity Catholic High School
School athletic information:  See below
School colors:                          unknown
School newspaper:                The Spire
School yearbook:                    The Lorettan

Loretto Academy 1950's
chgolorettoacademy50sdav.jpg
Courtesy of Ellen DePriest

Athletics
 
The girls of Loretto Academy participated in G.A.A. and other activities to help them achieve physical fitness. The school closed (1972) before the IHSA officially recognized and sponsored girls athletics (1974). However, the school was among a pioneering group of high schools that participated in interscholastic athletics, as evidenced by the following facts provided by historian Robert Pruter.
 
As early as 1927, Loretto was part of the Catholic High School Girls' Basketball League, competing against Visitation, Loretto High, Longwood, St. Catherine (later known as Siena), St. Xavier, St. Mary, Mercy, St. Scholastica, Evanston Marywood, and Wilmette Mallickrodt. The school did not win a conference championship and the league broke up in 1932 when the Catholic Youth Organization formed its own league. 
 
In 1940, according to a story on the IHSA website (http://www.ihsa.org/initiatives/hstoric/volleyball_early.htm), the Loretto girls were participants in a volleyball tournament with other all-girls catholic high schools including Lourdes, Loretto High, St. Martin Commercial, and Mercy
 
If you any further information you wish to share regarding the athletic exploits of Loretto Academy, please contact us via the means listed below.
 
 
Extra-Curricular Activities 
 
We are certain that there were many extra-curricular activities that were a fun and educational part of the Loretto High School experience. Band, chorus, student government, plays, and many other activities were likely offered throughout the school year.
 
MEMORIES
 
From Evelyn Wright (class of 1965):
I attended Loretto (Englewood) my first year....our school closed...last 3 years at Loretto Academy - Woodlawn....what was best:

1. Glee Club...I didn't know it at the time that the Mary Poppins songs would forever be with me. Which, by the way, I love to sing even today.

2. There was also the Sodality of Our Lady Club...I was a member...we met in the school library

3. Where uniforms...were such a blessing.

4. Loretto offered Business Ed or College courses...I sincerely appreciate my typing/shorthand teacher, Mother Clarice...because of her, I was the fastest typist as well as #1 writing and transcribing Gregg Shorthand. This skill afforded me employment...and saved my dad.

5. Dedicated Nuns...I help pay my tuition by working at the School/Convent so I got to know the nuns quite well as they did me. They were the best."
 
From Tom Crane:
"I remember Loretto Academy quite well. I attended Mount Carmel High School from where I graduated in 1952. I am now 80 years old.

"Also I lived a 66th and Ingleside at the time and was fortunate to have 3 very beautiful girls living next door to me. They were the Shanley sisters whose names were Mary, Nancy, and Jeanne. They all served as cheer-leaders for the MC football team. Mary was the oldest, then Nancy and Jeanne.

"I am saddened to think how time has passed, but then again fortunate to have such warm memories."
 
 
Do You Have Information You Can Share?   
 
If you do, please contact us at dr.veeman@gmail.com. Photos are welcome, as well as memories. You may also send items to us via "real" mail at:
 
IHSGD Website
6439 N. Neva Ave.
Chicago, Il.   60631