The School's History

victory light

Joliet Catholic High School sits atop a bluff overlooking the City of Joliet. (Hence the nickname "Hilltoppers") The Victory Light tower sits on top of Joliet Catholic High School, which was built and dedicated May 16th 1927 when the school was run by the Christian Brothers and called De LaSalle High School.

In August 1933 the Carmelites purchased the school and renamed it Joliet Catholic High School, adopting brown and white as the schools colors.

The Victory Light became a landmark in the city, and a tradition quickly began; after any Hilltopper victory the Victory Light was lit to acknowledge the victory.

In August 1990 Joliet Catholic moved to the building occupied by St. Francis Academy, and became known as Joliet Catholic Academy. Plans were originally drawn up to move the Victory Light to the new school, but because of it's weight (several hundred tons), the new school building couldn't support it. A likeness of the Victory Light was added to the new building in it's place.

The original still stands, it remains a landmark in the city, and a symbol of past, present, and future Hilltoppers

From the 1952 Joliet Catholic yearbook:
"On a hill over looking the city of Joliet a tower stands, a monument to the spirit of our Catholic people. Old St. Patrick’s Church was founded on the hill where JCHS now stands, making it the oldest piece of church property in continuous use in the Midwest. In 1818 a towering belfry wad erected and a torch in the structure lighted the way for dwellers in Joliet. The present tower and Victory Light carry on this century – old tradition. During our years at Joliet Catholic we are taught to look to the Victory Light for inspiration – not only as a beacon announcing the success of our athletic endeavors, but also as a symbol illuminating the best in life."

Added from the Herald News 11-4-2006
Historic Homes by Seth Magosky, JCHS 1985

November 3, 2006
Why it's important:The De LaSalle/Joliet Catholic High building has been a major focal point in the Joliet skyline for almost a century. The school served as one of the key educational structures for over three-quarters of a century.

Style:Joliet Catholic High was constructed in the Neo Classical style, popular in the early 20th century for educational buildings. The front portion of the old structure is detailed with engaged columns and a full pediment. It is topped with a pavilion tower reminiscent of small Roman temples.

The history:The site of Joliet Catholic High goes back as the sire of the first Catholic church in Joliet. St. Patrick's parish, founded in the late 1830s, was constructed on this site. It would continue to serve the Joliet community until it moved to Marion Street in 1918. Over the years, St. Patrick's Church added a school which stood along Hickory Street.

After the movement of St. Patrick's to Marion Street, the need for a Catholic high school to cater to the boys of Will County was growing. Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago directed the Christian Brothers to renovate the old St. Patrick's Church hall and school to a new boys high school. In 1918, 45 young men attended the first classes at the new facility.

De LaSalle had its first graduating class in 1922, and enrollment grew every year after. By the late 1920s, it was clear a new structure was needed. In 1927 the current De LaSalle High School was built. It would be a wonderful addition to the city, but economic hardships of the Depression left the Christian Brothers in dire straits. By 1933 they were very deep in debt and in need of assistance.

It was in a move to help the Christian Brothers out of debt that led to the turn over of the high school to the Carmelites. In that year the name changed from De LaSalle to Joliet Catholic High. The Carmelites would continue to serve the community at this site until 1990, when it was announced that Joliet Catholic and St. Francis Academy would merge into Joliet Catholic Academy at the corner of Larkin and Ingalls avenues.

Details:The various buildings that have stood on the site of Joliet Catholic speak of the growth of the community from a small town to a large growing city.

The original St. Patrick's Church was a very peculiar blend of a Greek-revival structure with Gothic windows and an ornate Gothic spire. This spire became a main feature of the Joliet skyline, stetting prominently atop the bluff. The first school building was a simple Romanesque structure designed by local architect Hugo Boehme. It would stand through the mid-20th century as an additional building to the high school. It was razed for the 1950s addition.

The main structure is of Neo Classical design, topped by a wonderful tower. This pavilion-like tower was constructed to replace the tower of old St. Patrick's as a new dominant feature of the skyline. The interior was a simple, central-hall plan with flanking classrooms. The main staircase was in the front, with additional stairs in the rear near the gym.

A modern addition was erected in the 1950s to house the growing baby-boom generation of students.

The people: It is impossible in a small column to talk about all the prominent students who would attend this high school. Today the graduates populate many communities across the country and fill the broad range of professions.

Some of the people associated with the growth of the school in more recent times include the Rev. Shane Tahney, who was responsible for directing the 1956 addition to the school, and the Rev. Niles Gillen, who in 1961 established a shared-time, vocational-industrial program with a private school, one of the first of its kind in the country.

In 1975, the Rev. Bob Colaresi became principal. It was during his years there that Joliet Catholic saw its greatest enrollments and saw the high school football team set a IHSA record by winning four straight state tiles in a row from 1975-78.

Today:Though Joliet Catholic would move from this site, it would have one more turn for education. It came into use after the tornado destroyed Plainfield High School. After that last educational use, it was redeveloped into the Victory Center for senior housing.

Did you know?: The tradition of the tower as the victory light started as a tribute to the early Joliet priests of St. Patrick's who would put lanterns in the church tower to help guide the canal boats.

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"Any man's finest hour - his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear - is that moment he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle . . . victorious."
Vince Lombardi

Our Lady of Victory . . .
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