When Elihu B. Washburne died in 1887, Chicago named an elementary school after him. He was a well known and well liked Illinois politician who was close friends with President's Lincoln and Grant.
In 1919 the school became the Washburne Trade and Continuation School. It was designed to train apprentices in their specific trade. That spring the federal government suspended classes for five years in order to train disabled World War I veterans.
Many Chicago unions had programs at Washburne. As Chicago grew as a city so did it's industry. Machinist, carpenters, electricians, steam fitters, metal lathers, plumbing, millinery, cooking, iron workers, cement masons, glaziers, and even beauty culture were all courses offered at Washburne.
1934 brought yet another name change, this time to the Washburne Continuation and Apprentice School. In 1937, the school was given the name it carried to the end, Washburne Trade School. By 1940, all apprenticeship programs from other Chicago Public Schools were transferred to Washburne.
Washburne moved to the location shown here in 1958. The school board purchased the 625,000 square foot Liquid Carbonate factory for $1.8 million. The complex was designed by S.D. Gratias and was completed in 1935. The office building is very unique due to it's combination of Art Moderne, Art Deco, and Prairie-School elements and the factory is a great example of the Chicag0-School design.
One of the first blows against Washburne was the suburban building boom. Unions began to pull out of the school in 1968 due to jobs being outside of the city. That was just the beginning of Washburnes woes. In 1975 the state cut funding to Washburne because it did not meet a federal guidelines for minority enrollment. By 1979 the school had it's funding back, but a recession was waiting in the wings.
When students arrived for fall classes in 1993 the doors were locked and a note on the doors said the school was closed. After 75 years and 50,000 workers trained Washburne was no more. The Washburne name still lives on as part of the City Colleges of Chicago, specifically the cooking program, probably due to its international reputation.
The city still owns the property. It appears to be used as storage for the Chicago Public Schools. That is only in a small part of the huge complex. Vandals, taggers, and scrappers have destroyed the building. Surprisingly, scrappers are doing the most damage to the place taking anything of value.
A demolition permit was applied for in April of 2005. The building is flagged "Orange" by the city as having some historical significance. This means there is at least a 90 day grace period so the property can be reviewed before demolition can begin. The property is fenced in and cranes are there, but no demolition has begun.