Audio Slideshow: The Tale of an Historic Philadelphia Vocational School

Facing a deficit of 1.35 billion dollars in 2013, officials from the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved the controversial and widely protested closure of 23 public schools that March, wiping out 10 percent of the city’s total number of schools. Among these closure’s was the Edward Bok Vocational program after 75 years of productive education.

Located at 8th and Mifflin Streets in the heart of South Philadelphia
Bok is historically significant in regards to both the quality and utility of education it provided and the beautiful Art Deco architectural styling of the building. The school was named for Edward Bok (1863–1930), a Dutch-born award-winning American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who worked in Philadelphia at the turn of the century.

The school was constructed from 1935 to 1938 based on the designs of Philadelphia School Board architect Irwin Catharine. Piers and pillasters emphasize verticality in the Art Deco design. Rather than just teach carpentry skills, the school taught, and had dedicated space for, subjects such as brick laying, plastering, plumbing, machine building, tailoring, and hairdressing.

More recent programs focus on advertising and graphic design, cosmetology, fashion design, Construction Trades, Culinary Arts, Computer/Networking, Health Related Sciences, and Process Technology. Bok had achieved adequate progress in regards to academic standards and performance for eight straight years upon closing.

Photos from this series are from, Philly Mag and the

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