John A. Berry Elementary School was built in 1961 at 6600 Benson Street, between Bellevue Street and Concord Street, on Detroit lower east side. Berry Elementary School was a small, modern, two-story structure that was designed in Art Moderne style by Detroit-architect Louis Redstone. Berry Elementary School had multiple classrooms and featured a gymnasium/cafeteria combination. Berry Elementary School had an average enrollment of around 200 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Berry Elementary School was named after John A. Berry , who was a member of the Detroit Board of Education for many years. Alumni of Berry Elementary School were known as “Berry Cobras,” as their school mascot was a cobra snake. Berry Elementary School was a property of the Detroit Public School system.
Berry Elementary School closed in 2008 due to low enrollment and in effort to cut costs for the struggling Detroit Public School system. When Berry Elementary School closed in 2008, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) decided that Berry Elementary School was going to get the Vacant Property Security (VPS), in other words, large sheets of metal to cover the doors and windows, that are designed to help keep scrappers and trespassers out of vacant property. So all of the school’s doors and windows were covered in the big, metal, and most of all, ugly VPS sheets. The troubling fact for DPS was that they were millions of dollars in deficit and needed to come up with a cheaper way to try and properly secure the near-100 abandoned schools that they owned. This was their new and improved method. Before the VPS was here, DPS used just regular plywood sheets to cover the doors and windows. Obviously, this didn’t work; the wooden boards would become weak and/or weathered over time, break, or were easily removed by anyone that wanted to enter the abandoned property. VPS was supposed to be the new answer to the same old problem. VPS actually worked….for a few years anyway. Then the trespassers (mostly metal thieves) found out how to remove the VPS sheets. Once this began to happen, DPS was in big trouble and the school’s were in even bigger trouble. The abandoned schools became a favorite target for scrappers. Berry Elementary School was no exception.
By 2012, the VPS metal sheets at Berry Elementary School began to slowly disappear and the school was heavily scrapped.
As of 2015, Berry Elementary School still sits abandoned. The Detroit Public Schools police still keep a close eye on the school and will prosecute anyone that gets caught trespassing on the property. Unfortunately, there are no plans for redevelopment or demolition of Berry Elementary School.
Berry Elementary School in 2010:
Berry Elementary School in 2012: