STATUS: Demolished (2017)
The former Stephen Foster Elementary School ceased to be used as a school in 1987 and was re-purposed as the City of Detroit Police Department Crime Lab. It was also home to the DPD’s Tactical Services Section, including special units like the Bomb Squad, SWAT, Sharpshooter unit, etc.
The infamous Detroit Police Department Crime Lab was shut down in 2008 after it was found routinely committing “serious errors” caused in part by “the deplorable conditions of the facility”. An audit, conducted by the State Police, uncovered serious errors in numerous cases and a 10% error rate was found in firearms analysis. The audit said sloppy work had probably resulted in wrongful convictions, and officials expect a wave of appeals in cases that the laboratory processed. Upon its closure, evidence from approximately 10,000 unprocessed rape kits were discovered in the lab, dating back nearly twenty years.
The auditors said that officers at the laboratory often cut corners and that in many instances “an assumption was made to the entirety of all items based on the analysis of only a few.” Technical reviews of the work were “almost nonexistent,” they wrote. Factors that contributed to the problems, they said, were a heavy workload, a lack of training and “the deplorable conditions of the facility.”
The Detroit Free Press reported that evidence, thousands of rounds of live ammunition, blood samples, sealed evidence kits and case files (some containing Social Security numbers of rape and assault victims) lay amid rubble in the abandoned crime lab that was open to trespass.
Abandoned since the late 1990’s, the school went through many additions and changes during its lifetime. The school was originally built to cope with the overwhelming number of students arriving in the growing city each day.
Originally built in 1911 the school started out as an Elementary School, however during construction it was already evident that the school would not be enough classrooms to house all of the potential students, so two additional wings were built at either end of the school. From 1913-1924 even more additions were built, including extra classrooms, a swimming pool and a gymnasium.
In 1960 the school switched gears and transformed into a middle school. The last addition to the school building was a combination cafeteria / auditorium, built onto the western wing. As the city population started to decrease due to the economy, the school in turn experienced a decline in enrollment that it would never recover from. Eventually closing in the late 1990’s.
The school perfectly reflects the rapid increase and decrease the city experienced due to the boom and bust of the automotive industry in Detroit. It appears there were tentative plans to re-open the school in 2001, but sadly the number of students in the school district continued to decline. As is typical of almost all abandoned/vacant buildings in the city, the school has been stripped clean of anything of value. As of yet, there has been no plans mentioned to demolish the school.
Upon exploring the school it was surprising to me, just how much was left behind. We stumbled across a science classroom with a closet of chemicals still on the shelves, pouring out of the bottles, microscopes on a desk, cabinets still full of textbooks, desks/chairs, football helmets strewn about and lockers pulled off the wall.
It had been raining on and off through our visit, so there was evident rain damage everywhere. With the exception of hanging metal, swinging when the wind would blow through the broken out window frames, it was peacefully quiet walking down the halls of this once bustling school.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take a 2,600 mile journey to Detroit….a place I like to call “the motherland of all things abandoned” lol. Oh my word…I surely was not disappointed!! In 3 days of exploring, I took about 3,000 photos! Whewwwwwwww…busy girl! Those photos got filtered down to the best of the best. About 600 images I felt were edit worthy.
Needless to say, I have only edited about 200 lol. Yea…I’m kinda behind on my editing. Well hey, what can I say. I’m always exploring and gathering even more photos to edit, and I’m a mommy and a new wife and have a full time career. Sometimes I have to cram in editing marathons on the weekend lol.
Anywho, back to “the motherland” haha. I had strategically mapped out about 8-10 locations that I wanted to hit. I made plans to meet up with an Instagram friend Aaron (@doctorhaircut) one of my days there and we hit the ground running! We were like a well oiled machine 😉 In a matter of 3-4 hours, we hit about 4-5 locations. One of them was this amazing school.
The beautiful decay that was around every corner was almost enough to make me giddy inside! I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stop my smile if I tried haha. Words cannot even begin to describe the decay and the beauty. Hopefully some of my pics from this Detroit series, do it justice.