St. James is the Oldest, Continuously Operating School in Chicago
St. James began as a School Society by a small group of German immigrants in 1857. They occupied as many as five buildings in the Lincoln Park neighborhood between their beginning and settling onto the corner of what is now Dickens and Fremont in 1905.
During these early years they called Pastors as their school teachers to assure that the word of God was a primary consideration in the instruction of their children. By 1869 enough families lived on this edge of the city (the northern boundary was present day Fullerton Ave.) that they formed their own congregation known as St. Jacobi (St. James in German).
The beginning of the 20th century brought an explosion of immigration to Chicago and St. James prospered by incorporating these new families from Europe into the surrounding neighborhood expanding the school student population to 325 by 1920.
This unchecked growth fell into decline after WWII as the movement to the suburbs attracted many families away from the urban area. By 1970 the student enrollment had declined to 109 and only one in ten students were members of the St. James congregation.
Not to be deterred, this small group of faithful congregants committed to operating a school reached out to the new population of African Americans moving into the near north side resulting in a small but stable student population. After adding a kindergarten program in the mid 1970s St. James was seen as a progressive, multi-cultural, inner-city school.
As the neighborhood began its ascent toward gentrification the congregation added a preschool classroom and an after school program for the families with working parents. By the mid 1990s the school population had climbed back to a respectable student population of 130.
Currently, we feature five early childhood classrooms, an elementary division consisting of grades 1-4, and a departmentalized middle school that graduates students to Chicago’s best high schools. With a middle school sized gym on the fourth floor and a student library with over 2,000 volumes, St. James has grown to be the best value for an education with a Christian worldview in the city of Chicago.