High School (GWF)

img_1041_tonemapped-copyAbandoned 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.

Alternative High School

Built in 1911, the alternative high school was slated to be an “African-centered, non traditional” school.  Designated for students who were struggling academically and were 1-2 years behind classmates their age.  In 1921 the school was expanded and enrollment was steady, as there were plenty of troubled/struggling youth to fill the classroom space.  The alternative high school maintained a steady flow of students, peaking in 2007 with its highest enrollment to date, with 736 students.  At that time, it was attributed as having the largest school student body size in the Detroit City School District.  However despite the enrollment achievement, it was decided that the alternative high school would close as part of a DPS Realignment Plan.

After the decision was made, attendance dropped to the low 300’s and then down to the mid 200’s at the time of closure.  Among the decisions for the school’s closure, was the aging condition of the building, including cracks in the foundation, dilapidating roof, unsound/leaky walls, as well as several other maintenance issues with the doors, window and the heating system.  The alternative school closed its doors in 2011.  Since that time, its been heavily vandalized and subject to the elements.

Catholic School

I found it difficult to locate any substantial history on this particular location.  All I was able to find out was, the school was built in 1924 and abandoned in 1989.  The church building is still being used, by another denomination.
Interesting Statistics:
During the 1960’s there were 55 Catholic High Schools within the Detroit city limits.  Today there are only 3!  At the same time, there were also over 100 Catholic Elementary Schools within the city limits.  Today there are only 7!
I had this school on my enormous list of locations to explore during this trip, but when reviewing with a friend/local I was sadly told that this school was either inaccessible or being renovated.  So we didn’t even bother checking it out.  Luckily after speaking with another friend/local we were told quite the opposite!  It was accessible and awesome. So we immediately headed over to investigate 🙂
We drove by and noticed an open window, where the wood panel had been ripped off.  It sucked because it was directly facing a busy street, but we figured if we harnessed our inner ninja skills, we could hop up and in pretty quickly, without being seen by too many cars passing by.  We parked our car, grabbed our camera backpacks, hustled into the window and were immediately in awwwwww!  This school was amaaaaaaazing!  It is in such a beautiful state of decay.  The photographs just don’t do it justice.  You can tell there must have been minor fire damage at one point (inside, not outside to the structure), as there were any charred walls and doorways.  Oh and the gymnasium was breathtaking!

When we were ready to head out, we started looking for the window we had came through…only to find out there was a door, wide open, right around the corner, lol – DOH!!!  So instead of hopping through the window, we simply strolled out.