Wrecking ball in session at modernist old South Shore High School

November 3, 2011

The wrecker's ball is busy at work on the South Shore High School campus, bringing down a once-visionary late 1960s building that became the odd man out when a new school was completed earlier this year a block east at 75th and Jeffrey.

It is a spectacular demolition site as equipment knocks away at the fortress-like school. You can see colored interior walls, snatches of murals here and there and am intriguing concrete structural lattice running through the ceilings of the building. The block-long site on Constance Avenue between 75th and 76th street is surrounded by an eight-foot safety fence that blocks much of the views from the sidewalk, but you can still catch good glimpses here and there. Elgin's Omega Demolition Corp--their motto is "The Final Word in Demolition"--is handling the job.

Here's a photograph I took of the building earlier this year when I reported demolition had been announced:

Here's what the front of the school looks like now, thanks to an opportune hole in the netting of the fence surrounding the site:

The 43-year-old architecturally Brutalist school was built for $9 million and--as I wrote in January--the building was designed with hexagonal classrooms, closed-circuit television that would beam-in instruction to the classrooms, and motor-operated wall partitions that would allow instructors to change the size of their classroom spaces. There were even laboratory demonstration tables that would mechanically spin around to let students see science experiments from various angles. A photography darkroom, a skating rink and an amphitheater were also built.

The school was designed by the Chicago architecture firm Fridstein & Fitch. The firm's principal, Marvin Fitch, designed the old Kennedy King College at 69th and Wentworth, which was demolished last year. The South Shore building was never staffed adequately or maintained properly from the outset. Many of school's then high-tech features didn't work after the school was opened.

Located on the west edge of Rosenblum Park, the site will be converted to park space once cleared.

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