Highland Park High School was built in 1915 (additions in 1918, 1927, and 1938) at 135 Glendale Avenue between Third Street and Second Avenue in Highland Park, Michigan. Highland Park is a suburb of Detroit, which is surrounded by Detroit, basically making it an extension of Detroit. Highland Park has suffered from the exact same epidemics as Detroit; such as bankruptcy, corruption, and severe abandonment.
Highland Park High School was a massive, beautiful, and ornate structure that was designed by architect Wells D. Butterfield in Classical-English type architecture. Highland Park High School was three stories tall, with it’s exterior built with quarry-faced, gray-stone that featured intricate moldings, motifs, dentils, cornices, turrets, garlands, and other magnificent details. The interior of Highland Park High School was just as beautiful as the exterior. The interior of Highland Park High School featured long hallways of Caen-stone and ornamental, carved oak fixtures and furnishings. In the center of Highland Park High School was a large, naturally-lite, tiled lobby that featured plants, paintings, and a large water fountain. Highland Park High School also featured a huge two-tier, 1,100-seat auditorium, a incredible three-story gymnasium, two swimming pools, and a cathedral-like library. Classrooms inside Highland Park High School included sewing, music, carpentry, machine tooling, medical arts, botany, chemistry, auto mechanics, welding, fashion, cosmetology, and drawing.
In 1977, a new modern, bunker-looking Highland Park High School was built on Woodward Avenue. Highland Park High School students were moved from the old Highland Park High School on Glendale Avenue to the new Highland Park High School on Woodward Avenue. The Glendale location then officially became Highland Park Community College. Even though the annual enrollment at Highland Park Community College had been up to nearly 3,000 students by the 1990’s, the community college still struggled to produce a profit.
In 1995, then-Michigan Governor, John Engler announced that all funding for the college would be stripped from the budget due to chronic financial and academic problems, stating, “Though the college has a long and distinguished tradition, it has become apparent that it is no longer an economically viable institution.” Local representatives fought hard to keep the school open, arguing that it was making progress in fixing its financial situation and that the loss of the school would be devastating to Highland Park’s already troubled economy. Highland Park Community College closed at the end of the year.
Shortly after closing, the school re-opened as Highland Park Career Academy, but it wouldn’t last. Highland Park Career Academy struggled even more than the community college and the future was grim for the near one-hundred year-old building.
In 2009, Highland Park Career Academy closed for good. After security was pulled, scrappers and vandals have dismantled the old Highland Park High School. When the Highland Park Police Department parked two squad cars in the back of the building to deter people from entering, the cars were vandalized and they were eventually removed less than a month later. Needless to say, that strategy didn’t work at all and people thought of it as more of a joke than any security measure.
In 2012, the windows and doors of the school were boarded up with gray plywood, but by that time the damage had been done. The property was put up for sale with an asking price of $3 million dollars.
As of 2015, the “rumor” is that the New York-based art group, Galapagos Art Space, has purchased the vacant and ailing Highland Park High School/Community College. The plans call for a renovation of the old, badly-damaged Highland Park High School into art space, galleries, and a performance center. Although we at Detroit-ish would love to see this happen because we love when people repurpose old, historic structures, things like this seem to somehow always “fall through the crack” here in Detroit. So we will believe it when we see it.
Highland Park High School/Community College in early 2012: