Have you ever been stuck in traffic on the Skyway and seen this enormous art deco'ish building and what looks like an airplane hangar next to it? That is Chicago Vocational High School & next to it is indeed the school's airplane hangar.
Today the school is the 2nd largest school in Chicago.
It opened in 1940 with an all-male class of 850. The next year the school was turned over to the United States Navy. The country was focused on the conflict overseas and preparing for the United States' entry. The plan was to have students be trained to be mechanics who could both build and repair aircraft. Later during the war the program was expanded to providing training in other areas for civilians for national defense jobs. As the war progressed, the school began to operate 24 hours a day to accommodate the training of so many people.
In 1946, after the war, the Navy returned the school to the Chicago Public School system and for the first time, the school admitted women for education in a non-wartime setting.
The aviation program, now civilian based, continued for several more years at the school. In 1948 the students restored a Stinson monoplane. The school received special permission to fly it over to Midway Airport. How did they manage that? They wheeled the plane onto Anthony Avenue and used that as their runway. The Skyway wasn't built for another 10 years so Anthony Avenue I guess would make a pretty good runway.
I have heard similar wartime aviation programs ran at Roosevelt and Lane Tech schools. Does anyone have any more information or photos about that? I'd love to learn more.
Here is a video of an actual plane that was used as a teaching tool at this school for 20 years:
Click here for a good history of the school.
For more information see this WBEZ article about recent changes at the property:
Sarah Rothschild, Realtor & Architectural History Nerd.