5 Chicago High School Gyms For The Price Of 2

Schurz & Steinmetz High Schools Each Have Multiple Cool Old Gyms

Carl Schurz High School on Chicago’s northwest side is a Chicago landmark building and also ranked by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 150 Great Place in Illinois. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

Carl Schurz High School is quite possibly one of the overall most impressive high school buildings I have ever been in. Completed in 1910 it is a sight to be seen inside and out. The school has at least two gyms, one where varsity sports take place on the north side of the triangular building along Waveland Ave. and the other in the center building on the third floor, which is used for P.E. classes.

I will say without much doubt Schurz’s gym could easily be one of the loudest non-packed gyms out there. With the sidelines butting up against brick-walls, the ceilings made out of cement, all directing sound to the cement steps that act as balcony bleachers, forming an echo chamber. The 8 cheerleaders at this game were amplified in a way that made this game with at most 50 spectators seem as loud as a playoff game.

The main gym where varsity sports are played at Carl Schurz High School, on Chicago’s northwest side, features a very limited amount of court-side seating, but has two balcony sections overlooking the court from each baseline. (Photo by Vincent David Johnson)

As with much of the 2021-22 basketball season, I’m always making last minute/day choices on where I will be heading. Monday Feb. 7th, 2022, was no different as of Sunday I had no photo assignments for the Chicago Tribune or its suburban publications. Looking at my short list, all the schools that were in driving range either didn’t have a game or I had photographed already, so I set off to my backup list of maybe schools and wasn’t disappointed.

As conference playoffs have started for some schools, games that weren’t scheduled until recently aren’t always on my list, along with covid reschedules, so a huge thank you to Jack Gleason and his HSBBall.com site for keeping a list of the week’s games. Sadly I missed a chance to photograph Notre Dame in Niles Sunday, but it has helped me find games at DuSable High and now Schurz & Steinmetz yesterday.

Walking into the old 3rd floor gym at Schurz High School is such a throw-back in time you almost feel like it should only been seen in black & white. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

Beyond a thanks for all of my colleagues in the media, as well as coaches, who have all passed on great tips for lesser known gyms I would have missed, I have to thank the support staff from security guards to principles. While I was able to photograph Schurz’ main gym as the boys hosted Niles North, the smaller old gym was in a part of the building that was locked up after hours. Security actually made a call to the principle to see if they could allow it and after a little explanation on my part I was given a nice little tour by a security guard named Maria, who even did a quick stop at the school’s historic library.

If I ever do a book on the best high school libraries in Illinois, Schurz High School will be at the top of that list. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

Steinmetz High, the Pride of the Northwest Side

Steinmetz High School’s main gym. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

Making my second stop of the evening, Steinmetz High School, was 3 miles away and what should have been a quick 10 minute drive, but took me 25 minutes in rush hour traffic down Belmont. The school boasted not one cool old gym, but two others I hadn’t known about prior to my visit.

Steinmetz, like many of Chicago’s public high schools has been seeing a resurgence in its academics and community investment. One of the few Chicago high schools to have their own on campus football field, it has been renovated with real-turf, new bleachers and a track, but of course I’m here to look at the basketball courts, which have also had a recent facelift. Luckily for fans of old unique gyms Steinmetz didn’t rip out any walls or even their old wood bleachers for that matter, and the old L-shaped spectators balcony area still give a much different view than you get at most basketball games.

Under the bleachers takes on a whole new meaning at Steinmetz High in Chicago. (photo by Vincent D. Johnson)

Steinmetz does have an open space along the sidelines of the court that could accommodate temporary seating. Additionally, just down the hall way are the other two gyms which all run along the same side of the building.

A middle gyms is the smallest and still holds onto its original look. Climbing ropes and wooded wall rungs line the walls.

A third gym has also undergone a recent renovation of its floor and is currently where the girls basketball teams practice, but could just as easily be an auxiliary gym for a JV game or second varsity game. A big shout out to the people at the scorer’s table who let me know about these two side gyms that weren’t on my radar for this visit.

The middle gym at Steinmetz is definitely a time capsule. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)
The third gym at Steinmetz is home to the girls basketball team, but just for practice. They play their games in the main gym, although with a balcony for fans, this could easily be used for JV or weekday games. (Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson)

Up next: Argo & Joliet Central

If all things workout I will be making it to Argo Wednesday Feb. 9th, although maybe midway through the game as I have a prior photo assignment that is near by and ends right around tipoff.

This Saturday, Feb. 12th I will be making the Joliet West at Joliet Central game at noon. The goal is to photograph another evening game down state, but I don’t want to fully commit to that quite yet.

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