South Kenwood's Harvard School converting to condos

by kate hawley on 3/14/07

Harvard School Condominiums

When planning the conversion of the Harvard School for Boys in the South Side’s Kenwood neighborhood, developer Steve Soble pored over old yearbooks to retain period touches. Few finishes from the dilapidated 1917 building were salvageable, so Soble hung onto parts of the original terrazzo floors and the oak doors, which are nearly three inches thick and include wire-glass windows.
The Harvard School’s history is notable for more than its architecture; it played a bit part in the 1924 murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks, who was walking home from the school, at 4731 S. Ellis Ave., when Richard Leopold and Nathan Loeb, a pair of brilliant students at the University of Chicago, nabbed and murdered him. They were later convicted of “the crime of the century.”

“We’re not emphasizing that,” Robert Sullivan, of real estate brokerage Urban Search, says with a laugh. Urban Search is marketing the building’s residential conversion as the Harvard School Condominiums, slated for a grand opening on April 15.

He noted some of the school’s other famous graduates: Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan; Mandy Patinkin, Broadway and television star; and William Shawn, perhaps the best-known editor of the New Yorker magazine.

Soble is used to living with history and will do so quite literally on this project. With the help of his partner on the development, Duncan Harris, principal in Kimwood, LLC, Soble plans to convert the former Harvard School gym into a private residence for himself. His restaurant and real estate company, Spare Time, Inc., has a strong preservationist bent; projects include The North Avenue Bath House and Southport Lanes, which bills itself as one of the only bowling alleys in the country where pins are still replaced by hand.

Aside from the gym, the Harvard School Condominiums will have four units, each with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. Three condos will be housed within the school building, with one unit on each floor. A fourth condo will occupy two stories in an adjacent portion of the building, across a courtyard.

Three units have studies and one has a family room. They range from 3,026 to 4,868 square feet, with 11.5-foot ceiling heights, woodburning fireplaces and oak floors throughout. Kitchen appliances are by Sub-Zero, Thermador and Bosch. Bathrooms have Kohler tubs and toilets. In a nod to a popular style of the early 20th century, floors in the second and third bathrooms will have hexagonal white-and-black ceramic tile by Daltile.

All of the units are available, and prices, which include two garage spaces per unit, range from the $830s to the $940s.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeffery March 14, 2007 at 1:33 PM

Nice article Kate. Amazing, a developer actually using quality material like Marvin Windows, Sub-Zero, Thermador, and Bosch. To bad this guys is not doing more work in the South Loop.

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Former HP Realtor March 14, 2007 at 3:26 PM

Please note that I do believe that Harvard went co-ed some time before closing. And yes, it’s a very impressive facility. It was on the market for quite some time; I took a client, head of a local social service organization, through there a couple of years ago. She was hoping to turn it into a residential/educational facility for families in need. Alas, her funding never came through.

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Kay March 26, 2007 at 10:41 AM

I walked through this building recently and am impressed by its quality and craftmanship. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product. Mr. Soble is known for his high quality restoration projects.

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John Novick October 17, 2007 at 8:54 PM

I was once Director of The Harvard School, and applaud the efforts to keep some elements of that wonderful old building and its history. An amazing project. Hope to get in to see the finished product someday.

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C. Hutchinson March 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Do you know the history of school, or where I could find out more? My dad went there (graduating in early ’40′s). Somewhere I have one of his ‘report cards’ (Latin, math, etc). Would be interesting to know more. Thanks!

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Stan Brown August 24, 2008 at 6:00 PM

It couldn’t happen to a better building. Happy days there, good friends, played football under Coach Dohr, received my letter in that gyumnasium, and drove statiuon wagon with younger students from Beverly Hills each day. Graduated from high school there in class of 1946.
>Stan Brown

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C. Hutchinson March 21, 2013 at 7:37 PM

My dad graduated a few years ahead of you – talked very positive about his experience.

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George Tasker August 31, 2008 at 11:41 AM

It’s a bittersweet moment to find this. I was sadden to learn of the news, several years ago, that the school had closed. I’m happy, however, that the buidling has been saved. I have many happy memories of my days there.

Class of 1965.

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Steve Smith October 27, 2008 at 10:40 AM

Actually, their names were Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold and Bobby Franks was walking home from a baseball game in a lot by the Harvard School. He wasn’t walking home from school. He did go to school there, as had Leopold and I believe Loeb when they were younger.

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George Yates November 14, 2008 at 9:49 PM

I remember Mrs Martin in 1st grade and Mrs Klabanski
in 2nd and 3rd starting in 1959 at the Harvard I still have a couple of year books. Then I was in other parts of the country.

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Ken Wilhelm November 17, 2008 at 11:56 AM

I am part of a partnership that is acquiring a 1926 School Building in Clear Lake Iowa for conversion into condos. This well situated property is near downtown, 3 blocks from the 14,000 year old glacier lake, and 2 blocks from the town square. The school is Lincoln Elementary School and we are naming our project “Lincoln Park”

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Ken Wilhelm

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Bob Duffy March 27, 2009 at 9:23 AM

My 1st grade teacher in 1951 was Mrs. Burns, a teacher I’ll always cherish. I only attended that one year, but while living in Illinois, I returned on several occasions with my parents to say hello–she always remembered me and lit up at the sight of one her former students. A wonderful woman and educator.

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Dick Truitt March 28, 2009 at 4:58 PM

I graduated in 1949 after playing basketball for coach Dohr and suffering under Ms. Elsie Schobinger, the principal. It was an amazing school with an incredible building and a “new” gymnasium built in the late 40s that was the best in Chicago at the time. I lived nearby and was always conscious of the Bobby Franks killing. It was one of the most shocking crime stories of that part of the century in a city that had tons of shocking stories. But every year Ms. Schobinger reminded us that we were one year older and must move beyond such trivia.

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Joe Zekas March 28, 2009 at 8:46 PM

Thanks for the memories, guys.

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Merv Baer May 28, 2009 at 1:07 PM

I had a lot of fun in that old school. Graduated in 1946 to the chagrin of Elsie Schobiniger. Still remember teachers from third grade through highschool and lots of fine friends. Presently living in St. Croix US Virgin islands (email mervb @ isp . com) and would like to hear from any surviving classmates.
Best day there was when I was being called a liar by MISS Schobinger ( I had not lied) and told her if I said somethng true that she would ‘send me home’ She asked what I would say that was true and I told her that she was the homliest woman I had ever seen.

In a meeting with Mr. Pence and Coach Dohr I was suspended for a week, and ordered to apologize to Miss Schobinger. My apology, “I am sorry you didn’t appreciate the truth’. Mr Pence and Coach Dohr tried not to laugh but I was reinstated.

Best teacher there was George Vaubel.

Anybody out there ?
Merv

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Pierre A. Michel June 30, 2009 at 12:08 PM

I attended The Harvard School from 1989-1991 for most of 6th and all of 7th grade. That place holds very special meaning to me. In 1988 my parents had just moved to Chicago from pretty much all over the country (I’m a military brat) and I could barely read. Well they took me out of a very bad Catholic school and place me there where I did very well under Mr. Preckwinkle. Now I’m a microbiologist working at the CDC in Atlanta and I hold 2 degrees. The last time I visited that place was around 99-00 and it was still a functioning school but look to be in very bad condition. Didn’t realize it had closed – that’s a shame. I would really like to know what happened to all of the library books and old photos the school had.

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Art Harre January 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

attended Harvard for 8 yrs. graduated in 1949. Lived 6 blocks away – 49th & Kimbark. Played football (undefeated & league champs ’47 &48.) Captain of the ’48 team. Keep in touchj w/ Art Edwards (Dallas) who capt. the ’48-’49 basketball team. Where did all our trophies end up?

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C. Hutchinson May 28, 2013 at 9:56 PM

You started the year, I believe, my father graduated. After Harvard School he went to U of Michigan where, besides studying engineering, he was in Navy ‘V-12′ program (what we would now call ROTC). Called up in late ’44 he did ’90 day wonder’ training at Annapolis, then was sent to Pacific. Stationed on USS Cabot (CVL-28). Anyways, he always had positive things to say about HS. It would be interesting for me to find out more about history of the school.

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Ralph January 28, 2013 at 5:46 AM

I attended one semester around 1960. My teacher was a total psycho. She pulled crazy stuff in class and told us not to tell our parents. One student did. She picked him up in his moveable chair and threw him and his chair about 5 feet as a warning. She always bashed the principal to us. She was paranoid and secretly taped our French teacher. Since she couldn’t tell us the results of our IQ test , she lined us up according to the results. A much more. Looney city, man.

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nancy November 30, 2013 at 8:24 PM

I have to real yearbooks dating 1920 and 1918
a wealth of information and photos
and signatures of teachers and students
some chicago notables
very interesting

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Art Edwards December 23, 2013 at 8:20 PM

Just “Googled” my old Chicago high school Harvard and came across the March ’07 article by Kate Hawley discussing the conversion of the school to Condos.. I spent 12 years there as a student graduating in 1949 and have many fond memories of classmates and teachers. My best friend was Art Harre captain of the undefeated football team. I remember Larry Fox and Chet Guy both deceased. Also the Phillips twins, Frank and John..I also wonder what happened to all our trophies?.

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