The first section of James Ward School was erected in 1874 at the 27th & Garibaldi Street, now Shields Avenue. Two additions were built to the school, one in 1897 and one in 1927. It was originally named the Garibaldi Street Primary School. In 1875, the Board of Education renamed it the Ward School, and in 1908, it was again renamed the James Ward School.
The School was named after James Ward who was born in Antrim, Ireland, on August 1, 1814. He became a member of the Chicago Board of Education in 1875 and served until 1863.
James Ward School is located in the area of Chicago known as Armor Square. It was first settled by Irish, German, and Swedish immigrants. The opening of the Union Stock Yards in 1865 stimulated its settlement.
In the early 1900's Italians moved into the Armor Square area, and by 1920, they were the predominant foreign-born group in the community. Yugoslavians and Black comprised the next largest groups at this time. The construction of the Ryan and Stevenson Expressways reduced the population.
Recent immigration brought Mexicans and now Chinese into the area. Immigrants coming from Hong Kong and Burma have extended the southern boundary of Chinatown to include much of Armor Square.
Agencies in the area that provide community services are: The Salvation Army Settlement House, Valentine Boys' and Girls' Clubs, the Chinese-American Service League, Fellowship House, Armor Square Park and McGuane Park.
The local churches are Santa Maria-Santa Lucia Catholic Church & School, St. Jerome Catholic Church and School, St. Therese Chinese Catholic Mission & School, and the Chinese Christian Union Church.
There have been thirteen principals since 1875. Their names are as follows:
1875 - 1903 French, Emily
1903 - 1907 Hogge, Morgan
1907 - 1915 Dillon, Augustus
1915 - 1922 Billings, Myra C.
1922 - 1924 Willard, Chauncey
1924 - 1937 Hardie, Anna
1937 - 1941 Gorman, Harriet
1941 - 1948 Downey, Helen
1948 - 1950 Kott, John H.
1950 - 1959 Nebel, Joseph
1959 - 1966 Katz, Phillip
1966 - 1970 Milner, Violet
1970 - 1993 Breen, Daniel G.
1993 - 2011 Wilcher, Sharon S.
2011 - ? Anderson, Karen D.