South Kenwood's Harvard School converting to condos

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.


  • Jeffery 12 years

    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.

  • Former HP Realtor 12 years

    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.

  • Kay 12 years

    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.

  • John Novick 12 years

    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.

    • C. Hutchinson 6 years

      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!

  • 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

    • C. Hutchinson 6 years

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

  • George Tasker 11 years

    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.

  • Steve Smith 11 years

    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.

  • George Yates 11 years

    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.

  • Ken Wilhelm 11 years

    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.


    Ken Wilhelm

  • Bob Duffy 10 years

    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.

  • Dick Truitt 10 years

    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.

  • Thanks for the memories, guys.

  • Merv Baer 10 years

    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 ?

  • Pierre A. Michel 10 years

    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.

  • Art Harre 7 years

    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?

    • C. Hutchinson 6 years

      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.

  • Ralph 6 years

    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.

  • nancy 6 years

    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

  • Art Edwards 6 years

    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?.

    • C. Hutchinson 5 years

      As I noted in a few other posts, my dad (Donald J Hutchinson, Jr.) attended Harvard School, graduating in 1941. Given your years there you might have crossed paths with him, although you would have been in 4th grade. (I have my dad’s senior yearbook and found your 4th grade picture in it.) My dad’s first year at Harvard School, according to the yearbook, was 4th grade, which means he attended 1932-1941.

  • George T. Karnezis 5 years

    Was in class of ’61 and played on last football team which beat those snobs from n. shore country day school. Also co-edited 1960-1 yearbook. Recall those intense small Latin classes taught by Miss Fay. Good discipline. Also wonder what happened to all the trophies and will inquire. Hope to get inside the building on my next Chicago visit whereof of my family still lives..

  • Shawn Allen 5 years

    In 1962 my grandmother, Mrs. Anne Tyskling merged Harvard school for boys and nearby St. George school for girls and young boys into the one 4731 Ellis campus. Also that year Mrs. “T” opened the school’s doors to people of color making the newly formed Harvard St. George school the first integrated private school in Chicago.
    The first ever all school reunion is being held this Saturday, June 21, 2014 at the U of C.

  • Rachel Foley 5 years

    I just found out about this school when I came into possession of 3 yearbooks (The Review) from 1928, 1930, & 1933. In trying to research it, there seems to be very little information available about the school and it’s history except for the famous Robert Franks murder. That’s a shame. What little I have found indicates it was quite an elite school dedicated to a college prep curriculum.

    • C. Hutchinson 5 years

      As I noted above in another post, I have my father’s (Donald J Hutchinson, Jr.) senior yearbook from 1941. The write-up with his senior picture states “‘Hutch’ came to Harvard in the fourth grade” which means he attended 1932-1941 so your should find him in the 1933 year book. Ted Ranney, another senior student, remained friends for many years with my parents – I remember meeting him. Unfortunately my father died at a relatively young age (57) from cancer in 1979. I do not know what became of Mr Ranney.

      • C. Hutchinson 5 years

        PS – If anyone has any information about the years 1932-1941 (when my dad attended), or knows of any of his classmates, please feel free to email me. Thanks! Chuck H. (

  • Gurnee Bridgman 5 years

    I graduated from Harvard Boys in ’49. Eventually graduated from U of Michigan and (after retirement) from Bemidji State with a Master’s in Biology.Widowed twice and now living in Fargo, N.Dakota. Active in the Shrine, and was a ‘biker’ for abt 40 years. Travelled a lot both US and overseas. Glad to still be around in 2015.

    Would like to hear from anyone in the class of 1949. Active in ‘ham’ radio (call: W9NT), anyone else out there? Morse or voice, your choice. My brother (King) graduated several years earlier. He passed in 1976).

  • Richard Stoll 4 years

    Attended 1st grade through 3rd grade 1948 -1950. Have 1948 year book. Mrs Burney was our teacher.

  • Barbara Mendelson 4 years

    I taught at HSG School when Mrs. Tyskling was still the Director….1974-75. Warren Volchenbaum was the principal.

  • Andrea 4 years

    I am looking to reach former students of the Harvard School as I am interested in the future of the property and have a proposal that I will be presenting to Mr. Sobel.

    • Tonika Smith 4 years

      I know of two former students, you can reach one by Face Book. They attended Harvard from ’92-93 maybe one went until ’94.
      J’Sharie Washington, her mother is Barbara Williams
      Shardae Smith is on Facebook under this name

  • Avril Gozna Brayton 4 years

    My first year of teaching was at Harvard – St. George in 1966-67, the fifth grade class. I was a new U.S. citizen, newly married and a recent arrival to Chicago. We were there for only one year while my husband did a dental internship at Michael Reese. Though the time there was short, I remember that year with such fondness. I returned to Nova Scotia after several years teaching in Boston and Georgia. I would love to hear from any students who might remember their fifth grade teacher!

  • Stephanie Fitzgerald 3 years

    I was Director of The Harvard School and Early Childhood Education Center from 1993-1995. It is great to find out that at least the building and some of its history lives on in this manner in the community.

  • richard stoll 3 years

    Attended 1948-1950 1st thru 3rd grades. Still have Harvard Review 1948 along with entire school photo.