• The History of Roman Catholic High School

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    August 9, 1878 – Thomas E. Cahill passes away; the world learns of his dream to establish Roman Catholic High School.

    September 6, 1890 – Roman Catholic High School opens as the first free non-public high school in America.
    Rector: Rev. Nevin F. Fisher, a 37-year-old convert to Catholicism and professor at Saint Charles Seminary.
    (The total cost of land and construction of Roman Catholic High School totaled $192,000)

    1893 – The Baseball team is formed and wins its first game 14 – 10 against St. Joseph’s College.

    1894 – The formation of a bicycle club takes place.

    1894 – The first graduating class, made up of just 26 students, leaves their mark on Catholic High.

    1897 – The Cahill Club replaces the initial Alumni Association.

    1898– The Crew team, formed just one year earlier, wins the city interscholastic championship.

    1899 – The Basketball team is formed. Due to the lack of practice and a suitable court, the Cahillites lost their first game to the Rex Athletic Association in a unspectacular fashion with a final score of 18-8.

    June 13 to 17, 1899 – The first entrance exam is held due to the overwhelming number of applicants

    1908 – Msgr. Hugh T. Henry’s “Purple and Gold,” written in a single afternoon, is sung publicly first time in honor of a successful basketball season for Billy Markward’s Cahillites.

    1915 – Catholic High celebrates its 25th anniversary and a new Alumni Association, distinct from the Cahill Club is established.

    1915 – Cahill Field, located at 29th and Clearfield Streets is leased by the Alumni Association to host many athletic events for Catholic High.

    1925 – The incoming freshmen class and some sophomores cannot attend classes at Catholic High due to lack of space. Instead, they attend classes at their parish elementary schools in North Philadelphia, Port Richmond, South Philadelphia, Roxborough, and Fairmount. Approximately 625 students attend classes off-site while 740 students fill the Catholic High building at Broad and Vine.

    1929 to 1945 – The Great Depression takes its toll on enrollment and employment at Catholic High. During the 1940s, many brave Cahillites did not finish their senior year and instead served their country in WWII.

    1938 – The Cahill Trust acquires a property in Northeast Philadelphia to relieve the attendance situation. However, the property is transferred to the Archdiocese and becomes Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls.

    1951 – Following the Depression and WWII, enrollment at Roman Catholic rises to 996 students with another 127 freshmen attend classes at annexes in Manayunk and Fairmount.

    1959 – On July 30th, 1959, the Roman Catholic High School building catches fire on the second floor and the white marble dome is lost forever. For the 1959-1960 school year, freshmen attend class at St. John’s Night School in Center City while upperclassmen attend class at the Baldwin School, now St. Monica School, in South Philadelphia.

    1960 – The Class of 1960 returns to Broad and Vine in May to graduate from the school building.

    1975 – The faculty begins tailoring rosters to fit student needs under the direction of Father Edward Cahill in order to guide students to suitable universities.

    1981 – The Alumni Association uses its resources to provide for the deficit of the school.

    1986 – In January, citing an annual deficit of $440,000 and a projected decrease in the enrollment of 550 students, the Archdiocese alludes to the closure of Roman Catholic High School at the end of the school term.

    1986 – In February, Cardinal Krol, then Archbishop of Philadelphia, proposes to the Cahill Trustees that a guaranteed incoming freshman class of 250 students will allow Roman to stay open.

    1986 – The alumni rise to Cardinal Krol’s challenge. A reinvigorated spirit coupled with Archdiocesan-wide enrollment causes an increase in enrollment over the next three years, reaching 750 students by 1989.

    1990 – Roman Catholic High School celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Renaissance Campaign begins under the direction of President/Rector Msgr. Francis W. Beach ’67.

    1993 – The RCHS Board of Advisors, a group of 25 individuals designed to put Roman in the center of the Philadelphia business community, is formed

    1996 – Renaissance Hall, a $3.5 million expansion featuring new classrooms, a library, and a television studio is constructed along the Vine Street corridor.

    1997 – Under the direction of Coach Dan Algeo, the Cahillites play their last varsity football game at Cahill Field, defeating West Catholic in tremendous fashion with a score of 41-0.

    1997 – River Field, located across the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art becomes the new home of RCHS Athletics after spending 83 years at Cahill Field.

    1998 – Renaissance Hall is dedicated with Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Mayor Ed Rendell in attendance.

    2006 – The McSherry Annex, located at 13th and Wood Streets, officially opens. The building houses three classrooms, a weight training facility, a sports medicine clinic, an athletic facility, archives, and the Alumni and Development Offices.

    2009 – The grand staircase is replaced with slate from the same quarry as was used in 1886 during the construction of the school.

    2009 – The historic gym is renovated and dedicated to Billy Markward, William ‘Speedy’ Morris ’60 and Dennis Seddon, the three most winning coaches in RCHS Basketball history.

    2009 – Signage is added to Renaissance Hall to make Roman Catholic High School
    visible from Vine Street past 13th.

    2010 – The closures of Northeast Catholic High School for Boys and Cardinal Dougherty High School allow more than 100 students to find a new home at Catholic High.

    2010 – The original Alumni House, located on 1313 Vine Street is demolished. Space created by its demolition positions Roman Catholic for future expansion.

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