In 1927, Cardinal Mundelein extended an invitation to the Dominicans of St. Joseph Province to build and administer a new high school in the Archdiocese of Chicago. In a simple but impressive ceremony, the corner stone of the high school bearing the shield of the Dominican Order was placed by The Very Reverend Raymond Meagher, O.P., S.T.Lr., Provincial of the Province, on Tuesday, August 13, 1929. Before the corner stone was laid, however, most of the work on the building was completed and with the splendid cooperation of the subcontractors, the school was ready for the opening day of school on Monday, September 9, 1929.
Fenwick opened its doors to 200 students and a staff of 11 Dominicans. The high school was named in honor of Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P., the first Bishop of Cincinnati. Father Fenwick helped spread Catholicism throughout the Midwest and established the Dominican Order in the United States west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Fenwick High School was founded as an all-boys college preparatory school by the Fathers and Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph (New York), but in 1939, the St. Joseph Province was divided and Fenwick High School became part of the new Province of St. Albert the Great, with headquarters in Chicago. In 1992, girls were admitted for the first time. Today, Fenwick is known as a secondary school. Students use some athletic facilities, including a baseball field, two football fields, a softball diamond, and a soccer field on the campus of Fenwick's Dominican Priory in the nearby suburb of River Forest.
Fenwick has a strong academic tradition, as noted by the number of National Merit Scholars and Illinois State Scholars, high SAT and ACT scores (with averages ranked within the top 100 schools in the nation), and large numbers of students matriculating to top universities, such as those in the Ivy League and Big Ten. Since its founding, Fenwick has maintained a 100% college matriculation rate and Fenwick's students matriculate to many top American and international universities.
Fenwick has a highly accomplished faculty, four of which have earned the Golden Apple Award.in 1983 Fenwick was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. On January 18, 1999, U.S. News & World Report classified Fenwick as an "Outstanding American High School", making Fenwick tied for the #1 ranked preparatory school in the Chicago area.
Fenwick has commenced several expansion campaigns at their present location in Oak Park based on their original Neo-gothic designed school created by the New York architect Wilfred E. Anthony, who also redesigned the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Indiana for the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The latest expansions include a new field house with a 1,100-seat gymnasium and a 450-seat Natatorium; several new classrooms and updated athletic lockers; a new school entrance and gateway, and additional science laboratories and art studios, all of which are in keeping with the Collegiate Gothic look of Fenwick's school and original priory. Fenwick is in the early stages of the Centennial Campaign
which will expand and improve the campus again, but also in keeping with the original Collegiate Gothic style, like many of the great universities of the western world.