About the Power House
Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center Henry Ford Academy: Power House High
The Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center represents a dramatic $40 million dollar rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Power House facility of the original Sears, Roebuck and Co. world headquarters in Chicago. Restoration began in January 2007. In August of 2009, the building welcomed the students of Henry Ford Academy: Power House High, a public charter high school affiliated with the Henry Ford Learning Institute of Dearborn, Michigan.
Completed in 1905 as one of four main buildings of the George C. Nimmons designed Sears, Roebuck and Co. complex (listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978), the Power House powered the massive 55-acre Sears complex until the company’s 1973 relocation to the Sears Tower in downtown Chicago. Minimal operations continued until 2004, when the Power House was fully decommissioned; vacant and deteriorating, becoming a classic “white elephant” building with limited reuse.
Enter developer Charlie Shaw (1933-2006) and the Homan Arthington Foundation which since the 1980s had worked with the City of Chicago and North Lawndale residents to redevelop the Sears complex into Homan Square, creating more than 300 housing units and a community center. The Homan Arthington Foundation spearheaded the creative and sensitive adaptation of the Power House to classroom and learning facilities for students drawn from the surrounding neighborhoods. Generous public and private donors supported both the capital restoration and school operations.
What began as a simple quest to determine the best use for an empty building, turned into a grand plan for reclaiming a chunk of Chicago history by offering brighter futures to kids in a tragically underserved neighborhood. Power House High is not only preparing students for secondary education, but also inspiring them through daily contact with compelling architecture and the remnants of the building’s power generating past.
Photography of the Power House began in October of 2006 to capture the essence of this captivating space and its contents prior to environmental remediation and restoration work.