|Siena High School (as it appeared in 2010)
|Courtesy of Chicago Catholic News
History of Chicago Siena High School
Chicago (population: 2.8 million) is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, and is the
third largest city in the United States. Various interstate, state, & US highways travel thru the "Windy City" along with
several railroad carriers. O'Hare International Airport is one of the busiest terminals in the world, and handles a great
deal of air traffic on a daily basis. The Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers still provide an outlet for water traffic if chosen
by those wish to travel by that mode.
"The City of Big Shoulders" was founded in 1803 as Fort Dearborn, then grew slowly until it was recognized
as a city in 1837. Although it may have suffered a setback in 1871 to the Great Chicago Fire, the city pulled itself up by
its own bootstraps to rebuild, gaining many immigrants from various European countries and hosted the Columbian Exposition
in 1893. By then, Chicago had grown even more to the point that it became the fastest growing city in the US during the second
half of the 19th Century.
Siena High School was an all-girls' school located on the city's West Side with a beginning
that stretched back to 1895. The school opened as St. Catherine's Academy at Woodbury House on Central Avenue
near Washington Boulevard as a K-8 co-ed grade school in addition to the all-girls' high school. The Sisters of Mercy were
in charge of the school as a new brick building was erected in 1897 to serve the Austin neighborhood along with students from
Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood, and other western suburbs.
The school name changed in 1912 to St. Catherine High School as it became chartered with
the state of Illinois. By 1917, the high school section had grown so much that the grade school was discontinued, and on October
12, 1925, a new building was opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago as a central girls' high school on the West Side.
In 1931, another name change took place as St. Catherine became Siena High School, in order
to distinguish itself from three other St. Catherine's schools that were on the same side of the city. The name Siena comes
from St. Catherine of Siena, who lived in Italy during the late Middle Ages from 1347-1380. More about her life can be
found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Siena.
Following World War II, the enrollment of Siena began to increase steadily that it reached 522 in 1952 and
the Sisters of Mercy were already putting plans into motion to build a one million dollar expansion that would hold one thousand
students. When the building opened one year later, the school's enrollment continued to climb to the point that 1,158 were
in classes in 1958-59. When the enrollment stayed in that area, an extended day plan was implemented from 1962-64 to relieve
The enrollment tapered off in the late '60s due to a changing neighborhood and reached a point that the
school building was sold to the Chicago Public School system in 1973. Those remaining students were moved into vacated
classrooms at St. Lucy's Grade School on Lake Street to ease the financial burdens that the school was saddled with at the
time. However, it was too late and the final class of Siena (48 in all) received their diplomas in the school's final
graduation exercises in the spring of 1977.
Siena High School is holding their second EVER alumnae reunion in 2012!! Siena alumna Kay
Cahill tells us the following:
"Again, thank you for the great history about Siena High School - and thank you for posting my invitation
to the first-ever all-class reunion in 2010--two years ago. It was a huge success. We are now planning the second-ever all-class
reunion to be held on Saturday, September 29, 2012, at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, IL.
"An optional tour of the Alma Mater at Central Avenue and Washington Blvd. (now
the Catalyst School) will be offered from 9 - 11:30 a.m. Luncheon is planned for 12:30 p.m. at Drury Lane.
"For more information, interested alumnae may write to Siena All-Class Reunion, P.O. Box 72302, Roselle,
IL 60172. Kay Cahill, Reunion Committee."
|Chicago Siena High School Building
|Courtesy of Sharon Rynn
FACTS ABOUT CHICAGO SIENA HIGH SCHOOL
Opened as St. Catherine Academy: 1895
Name changed to St. Catherine HS: 1912
Name changed to Siena HS: 1931
Year closed: 1977
School colors: Gold
School nickname: unknown
School song: "We're
Loyal to You Siena High"
Submitted by Sharon Rynn
loyal to you Siena High
We pledge our love for you
We sign you praises to the sky
And to your spirit we’ll be true
We’re loyal to you Siena High
And this will be our goal
That thru the years we will be faithful
To Siena our school.
We do know that Siena students had the chance to compete in athletics with other schools, even though
the Illinois High School Association's website (www.ihsa.org) does not show anything with regard to any hardware won by the school in sports or other competitions.
When it was known as St. Catherine's, historian Robert Pruter says the school was a member of
the Catholic High School Girls' Basketball League from 1927-31. It competed with the likes of Visitation, Loretto High, Longwood, Loretto Academy, Mercy, St. Xavier, St. Scholastica, St. Mary, Aquinas, Alvernia, Wilmette Mallinckrodt, and Evanston Marywood.
took the league championship in the 1928-29 season. The league broke up in 1931-32 when the Catholic Youth Organization created
its own league.
The girls probably had activities to keep the interests piqued at the school, such as band, choir, newspaper,
yearbook, dances, parties, and the like. We're curious as to how the Siena students spent their time together away from the
classroom. Our addresses are below.
**From an anonymous member of the Class of 1962:
"I actually attended Siena 1958-59 and graduated
in 1962. It is part of my past that will remain always close to my heart. I
owe my willingness to learn to likes of Sister Roberta (she taught Latin) and Sister Alberta
(Math). I loved my school, my friends, my memories and my future to Siena. I was proud to attend Siena and continue to
proud to talk about the school. Thanks for bringing me back."
**From Mary O'Connor (Class of 1963):
"Don't forget Sister Julian! She had the biology lab, and our homeroom,
and was full of energy. I will always remember cheating on geometry in that room…sorry God, I still got two master's
degrees. Siena and its up and down staircases. How about those leadership retreats in Wisconsin?
Great memories of the Spotlight!"
**From Mark A. Hill:
"My great-aunt was a nun with the Sisters of Mercy,
in Chicago Illinois between the years of 1930 - 1969. Her birth name was Clara Elizabeth Taylor, but her name changed to Sister Mary Theophane Taylor
after she became a nun, in January 1930.
The Sisters of Mercy have been so kind as to inform
me that my great-aunt taught at three schools, in three different cities...Chicago, Des Plaines, and Milwaukee. pecifically,
she taught music and voice at Siena High School in Chicago. She was also affiliated with the Glee Club and
Chorus, as she had been a professional singer, of Operatic talent, in the private sector.
This note is in regards to my great-aunt Clara Taylor (Sr. M. Theophane Taylor). According to
the information I obtained from the Sisters of Mercy
, my aunt became a nun during 1930. With
that information, I managed to locate a Census document for that year, on Ancestry.com
. My aunt's name is third from the top :)
More the point, it also indicated that she was (presumably) teaching at St.
and College. That does well to establish a timeline for my aunt's life in Chicago
She began life as a nun at St. Xavier, and continued on to Siena High School
, eventually passing away
in February 1969. She was laid to rest in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Worth Illinois.
interest is to discover any bits or pieces about Clara's life. To learn who she was, and possibly even view a photograph of
her. My wildest hope, would be to hear her undoubtedly wonderful singing voice. But, any information at all would be greatly
**From Elizabeth Giangrego:
"I attended Siena 1960-64 and remember Sister Theophane vividly. There
was something magnificently grand about her as if she was some great operatic diva. I was cornered one day while on "convent
duty," answering the telephones in the convent, by another nun. The other nun showed me a photo of herself before she entered
the convent. Judging by the hat, it was taken sometime in the early teens. Anyway, she showed me this photo and whispered
"I was much prettier than Sister Theophane," and then wafted away. I always wondered what THAT was about!"
**From Kathy Cotton-Barger:
"I attended Siena High School from 1966 to 1969. I have wonderful
memories of my days at Siena. I am in the process of searching for my yearbook. I will send you some photos as soom as I find
it. I'm looking forward to some more input from others."
**From Lillian Lazarro Zambetta:
"I attended Siena from 1958-1961 and attribute my "discipline"
to the one-way stairs and silence in the halls. Even so we had great times and many memories, especially the senior ski
trip and good ole Sister Alberta."
**From Mary Ann Wogan, Class of 1969:
" I was in the graduating class of 1969, have a lot of good memories of Siena. I
live in Ireland now."
"Hi there. Just getting started in the family genealogy, I recall my mom and her
sisters and some good friends that went to Siena. Names were Lilly Warner, Mary J Warner and I believe Bernice Asire, who married Joe Azzarello and if I am not mistaking Bernice is
still alive and living in North Riverside, but I can not locate her phone number or address."
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE HISTORY OF...
St. Catherine and Siena High School? We'd like to know in order to preserve the history of the school.
Items such as a team/school nickname (if one was used), activities, and more photos of the school are greatly appreciated.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or clicking on this CONTACT US link. Or you'd like to send us something thru the US Postal Service, here's our street address:
Illinois High School Glory Days Website
6439 North Neva
Chicago, IL 60631