The now Abandoned Southwestern High School Detroit was part of a new trend in education in Detroit, envisioned as one of the first schools in the district specifically designed for upper grade levels. With an emphasis health and activity, plans for the school called for a gymnasium, swimming pool, and auditorium for both student and community use – features that would be common in later schools, but were rare at the time. It was decided that Southwestern would be built next to the Nordstrum building, which would become an intermediate school, combining the two into a campus.
Plans were quickly approved, and construction on the Malcomson, Higginbotham & Palmer-designed building began in 1921 with an estimated cost of around $640,000. Dedication of the new Southwestern High School took place in April of 1922. The ceremony included speeches by city officials and a parade of soldiers from nearby Fort Wayne playing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
One year later enrollment had reached 1,055 students. Instead of becoming an intermediate school, Nordstrum was to be turned into an elementary school in 1922, according to the annual report from that year. Subsequent annual reports make no further mention of the Nordstrum name, and it appears that the building became part of the high school, as some yearbooks from the late 1920’s and 1930’s make passing references to Nordstrum being used for 9th and 10th graders.
In February of 2012, Detroit Public Schools announced that Southwestern High would be closing at the end of the academic year, along with 15 other schools. Throughout the spring parents and students rallied to save the school, which was finally starting to show improvement in test scores. In April, students at Southwestern and Western High Schools walked out of class to protest the closure, fearing that the merging of the two rival schools would lead to violence. But with just 583 students and a capacity of 1,600, keeping Southwestern open was no longer financially viable. The school closed for good in July 2012.
RiddimRyder Photography and I were about 6 years late in this Abandoned High School as it closed in 2012, had once been a hotspot to explore amongst abandoned places in Detroit, with lots of leftover goodies. It had been explored, scrapped, torched and torched again and then in 2015 it was purchased by an India based auto supplier who are now in the process of renovations and rebuilding as a training center for nearby businesses.
It’s okay though, there was JUST enough interesting parts of the school to make the visit worth the time we spent there!