CELEBRATING BOWEN HIGH SCHOOL'S 100th
1910 - 2010
The current Bowen High School, located at 2710 East 89th Street, opened in 1910. It replaced a previous building located on Houston
Ave. between 91st & 92nd Streets, which was built in 1876 and originally named Bowen School after James H. Bowen, "The Father
of South Chicago". The original building was opened as an elementary school to meet the needs of the immigrant population who
came to work in the steel mills. Eventually the school began to enroll high school students, who were housed in the top floor.
Sometime later the building became South Chicago High School and following the death of James H. Bowen in 1881 at age 59, the
original building was renamed James H. Bowen Public High School. The old building later became the Bowen Branch and was used for
classroom space until it was demolished in 1962.
Six hundred high school students were transferred to the new buidling when it opened on January 21, 1910. The new Bowen High
School graduated its first class on Thursday, June 23, 1910. There were 39 graduates. The first Principal was Charles I. Parker, and a
number of notables attended this first graduation ceremony. The 1910 building was designed by Dwight Perkins, who was a prairie
school archiect and a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright. The original 1910 building was built for an enrollment of 1,400 students at
acost of $500,000. Additions were made to accomodate increased enrollment in 1943 and in 1970. Mr. Perkins also designed Carl Schurz
High School, located at Addison St. & Milwaukee Ave. on Chicago's northwest side. Schurz High School also opened in 1910 and has
an appearance very similar to Bowen.
When Bowen High School opened, the closest high school serving the southeast side was Hyde Park High School located at 62nd St.
& Stony Island Ave. From 1910 through the 1930s, Bowen served students from as far north as the the South Shore area all the way
south to Hegewisch. Population growth led to the opening of South Shore High School in 1940. Following the end of World War II,
housing development and the subsequent "baby boom" created a surge in Bowen's enrollment, which led to the opening of George
Washington High School at 114th Street and Avenue & "O" in February of 1957.
This photograph of Bowen High School under construction circa 1909 was supplied by George Beloz along with the following
commentary: The photo was taken from Bowen's southwest corner looking eastward along 89th Street. The first and second floors are
being constructed. There are no other floors yet above these. There are two loaded wagons of bricks being pulled, each by two horses.
The bricks have holes in them, which seem to be of the kind used behind face bricks or stone. The name of the school can be read
above the main entrance. To the left below the stack of bricks behind the second wagon, a child is standing and looking at the horses.
No construction worker is seen anywhere in the photo. Next to the center post, and to the right of it, is an old water hydrant. Toward the
northeast corner of the building, above the uncompleted second floor, is the steeple of Immaculate Conception Polish Catholic Church.
To the left of the center electrical post, is a gas lighted street lantern. No paved streets, sidewalks, fences, or trees are seen. The
iron/steel roof arches of the future school auditorium are clearly visible.
George Beloz found an artifact, pictured below, from the original 1876 building in May 2010, which is pictured above left. The building
was later enlarged and became the Bowen Branch, shown at right. This piece of stone, pictured below, appears to be a portion of the
horizontal trim which separated the 1876 building's floors. White stone horizontal trim is clearly shown in both pictures. George
photographed the artifact earlier this year as it was laying at the edge of a parking lot near the northwest corner of 92nd & Houston, the
location of the 1876 building.
This is the present day corner of 92nd & Houston where the stone artifact was
found. The photo below looks west across Houston Ave. along 92nd Street.
In 2012 the stone was moved to the first floor hallway display area at Bowen and a commemorative wall plaque was donated by our
classmate George Beloz.
On May 7, 2011 a Centennial Celebration was held at the Bowen Campus. Over 300 guests attended and enjoyed a barbeque lunch of
hamburgers and hot dogs. Members of the ROTC gave guided tours of the building, Rod Sellers (Class of 1964) gave a slide
presentation on the history of Bowen, Joann Podkul (Class of 1956) and Kevin Murphy provided narration for bus tours of the South
Chicago area, Ald. John Pope (10th) presented a City Council Resolution and State Rep. Marlow Colvin (33rd District) presented a State
House resolution honoring Bowen's 100th anniversary.
Seven banners were hung on the fence along 89th Street including a banner paid for by members of the Class of 1957. Thanks to all
Our class was very well represented at the Centennial celebration. Ten class members and their spouses
enjoyed the festivities.