One-hundred years ago a high school was built at the corner of Orchard and Armitage (then Center Street), right in the heart of Lincoln Park, a growing community on Chicago’s north side. As the city of Chicago recovered from the Great Fire and began to prosper again, many citizens were moving north where land was fairly cheap. A number of elementary schools, a university, hospitals, churches and other institutions already had been established in the area, but there was a need for a high school.
The history of the school actually begins when North Division High School was established in 1875 as the first north side high school in the city of Chicago. It was one of three division high schools – the North, South, and West – opened to supplement Chicago’s first high school, Central High School, which had become inadequate to meet the needs of Chicago’s growing population. North Division was first located at 1130 North State (State and Elm) in five rooms of the Sheldon School. In 1884, in order to accommodate the expanding enrollment, the school was moved to larger quarters at Wells and Wendell Streets. This building later became the Sexton School.
As the new century approached, it became clear more space was needed, and the erection of a new building at the current location was begun in 1899. In 1900 the school officially opened and was renamed Robert A. Waller High School. However, for another two decades, the school continued to be referred to as North Division as well as by its new name. Its Greek revival style, in keeping with the grand architectural style of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, made it a striking addition to the community.
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