Project Description

David Mackenzie High School was built in 1928 (with additions in 1930 and 1938) at 9275 Wyoming Avenue, near the corner of West Chicago, on Detroit’s west side. David Mackenzie High School was named after famous Detroit-educator, David Mackenzie. David Mackenzie served as principal of Detroit’s Central High School and he was also the first dean of Wayne State University. When David Mackenzie passed away just prior to the school’s construction, the was no question that the school was to be named in his honor.  Mackenzie High School was three-floors tall and huge in size.  The school had classrooms, laboratories, a library, and auditorium, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a swimming pool.  Alumni and former students of Mackenzie High School were known as the “Mackenzie Stags,” as their mascot was a stag, or male deer (buck).  Mackenzie High School was a property under the Detroit Public School system.

Mackenzie High School was a truly “one of a kind” building, as it captured anyone’s eye that would pass it. The exterior of Mackenzie High School was absolutely beautiful, as it was adorned in blue and yellow tiles from Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. The façade was terra-cotta ceramic and it really complimented how gorgeous Mackenzie High School’s look really was.  The interior of Mackenzie High School was just as beautiful at the exterior, with a smooth-green marble interior and more tiled entrances.  Mackenzie High School was often seen as one of Detroit’s most beautiful architectural gems.

In the 1950’s, Mackenzie High School’s student enrollment continued to hover around 5,000 students.  This made Mackenzie High School, not just Detroit, but the largest public school in the entire State of Michigan.  Mackenzie High School had many all-star sports teams through the years.  Many famous athletes also attended Mackenzie High School, most notably football star, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis.

The problem started for Mackenzie High School when the population of Detroit plummeted, and hence the neighborhood around Mackenzie followed.  Over the years, enrollment began to decrease and less and less students came to Mackenzie High School.  In 2007, only 1,000 students remained at Mackenzie High School.

Mackenzie High School closed in 2007.  Detroit Public Schools (DPS) decided that Mackenzie High 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 at Mackenzie High School….for about three or four years.  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 Mackenzie High School was in even bigger trouble.  The abandoned schools became a favorite target for scrappers.  Mackenzie High School was no exception.  By 2010, the VPS metal sheets at Mackenzie High School began to slowly disappear and it seemed that the school was always open at one point of entry or another, whether it was a door or a window.  Most of the Pewabic Pottery tiles, smooth-green marble, and other intricate details of the building, were all stolen and scrapped for pennies on the dollar.  Mackenzie High School became a huge eye-sore and a real grim reminder of a beautiful school that it once was. In the end, Mackenzie High School was a true tragedy.

In 2012, Mackenzie High School was finally demolished.

As of 2015, a new, modern, $21.8 million Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School has been built next door to the old Mackenzie High School site, almost adding insult to injury.

 

Mackenzie High School demolition in 2012: