Visitation School is one of the oldest Catholic grade schools in the City of Chicago. Though the buildings have changed, Visitation is still located at 900 West Garfield Boulevard (one block west of Halsted Ave.) one of the South Side’s most historic streets. Today the school serves students in pre-school through eighth grade.

In The Beginning

Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters have staffed Visitation since the school was established in 1891, when six sisters left their Wisconsin motherhouse to hold classes for 170 boys and girls crowded into the church basement. The enrollment increased every week, requiring more and more improvised space. In 1903, a school building was finally erected to meet the growing need of the parish. For the early part of the century, Visitation was the center of the Irish Catholic immigrant society that flourished on the South Side of the city. Life along “The Boulevard” was vibrant. The parish school grew to serve between 1200 to 2000 students from 1905 to 1965, and a girls’ High School opened in 1915. Enrollment at the grammar school reached a high of 2,211 students in 1965.

Turmoil & Transformation

However, the turmoil that scarred much of the South Side in the 1960’s and 70’s affected Visitation as well. The flight of white, Catholic families out of the neighborhood began in the late 1960s, replaced first by Hispanic immigrants, and then African American families. The population of the parish school declined as Catholic families left the area. By 1970, there were 806 students enrolled at Visitation, and ten years after serving over 2000 students, the population fell to 415. The high school closed in 1980, and the grammar school moved into the high school building. In 1988, the grade school enrollment dropped to an all-time low of 160 students. The next year, the population rose to 288, and continued to climb to a high of 350 students in 1999.

The Present and Future of Visitation

Today Visitation is proud to educate approximately 190 students annually. Visitation now offers before and after-school care programs, an athletic program featuring boys’ and girls’ sports. Including flag football, basketball and track. Other activities include two Gospel choirs, Liturgical Dancers and leadership opportunities in the Junior Scholars and Student Leader Programs. The school building has 13 classrooms, a Music room, gymnasium, library, lunchroom, auditorium, a designated “No Child Left Behind” classroom and the Frank and Frances Guinta Computer Learning Center. We are a multi-cultural school with African-American and Latino students. The majority of our families come from the neighboring communities. Visitation welcomes all children regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.

1960s in the Winter at Visitation

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