Chicago (population approximately
2,800,000) is situated in the far northeastern portion of Illinois in the heart of Cook County. Highways leading to and from
Chicago include I-55, I-57, I-88, I-90, and I-94. Several railways also take you into the nation's third largest city.
Lake Michigan serves as Chicago's eastern border and was vital (and still is today) to Chicago's early growth and economy.
The area in which Chicago is located was first settled in the very early 1800's. The mouth
of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan served as an important waterway from the east to the west. The town was organized in
1832 and chartered as a city in 1837. Chicago's population that year was 4,180.
By the late 1800's, Chicago was a boom town, the population increasing at a rapid rate.
Along with this boom came the need for education. Residents saw to it that their children were given many opportunities. Along
with the growth of public schools came the establishment of technical schools that could teach a trade to a student that was
looking to enter the workforce rather than go off to college. One of those schools was Washburne Technical.
Washburne Technical High School was opened in 1919 on West 14th Street near Union as
a continuation of education for the grade school that had been there since 1887. The school was named for Elihu Washburne,
a former US Congressman from Galena that also was Secretary of State under President Ulysses S. Grant (another former Galena
In the beginning, the school offered carpentry and electrical engineering, but with the backing of various
labor unions, Washburne was able to expand its offerings and eventually became the school for vocational education citywide.
As the school's catalog for vocational offerings grew, it eventually moved to Division & Sedgwick on
the Near North Side in 1934 and then again in 1958 to a two-block area in the Little Village neighborhood into the former Liquid
Carbonic plant at 31st and Kedzie. The building had been built for drugstore owner Jacob Baur, who discovered
a way to put carbonic gas into soft drinks and led the invention of the soda fountain. Baur's company occupied the building
in 1910 as it was designed by Nimmons and Fellows, an architectual firm that was renowned for its work on the original Sears
Tower at Arthington and Homan in Chicago.
Washburne Tech's demise is believed to be tied to desegregation of the student body in the mid to late-1960's.
Prior to that point, the students were primarily Caucasian with 17 unions involved at the school. But afterwards, the number
of unions dropped to eight by 1978, and eventually just two remained at the time of the school's closure in 1993.
However, the City Colleges of Chicago revived Washburne a year later but it did not stay at the former Liquid
Carbonic plant long because only the culinary program was moved to Kennedy-King College in 1996 and from there, it relocated
to the South Shore Cultural Center after the turn of the 21st Century, where it remains today.
The building on 31st and Kedzie remained vacent after the school left in 1996 and was preyed upon by vandals
as weeds and graffiti increased, and a fire in February 2009 helped push for demolition of the school, which was finally completed
in October 2009.