Project Description

William T. Sampson Elementary School was built in 1911, with a large addition in 1921 to include more classrooms, the gymnasium, and the auditorium.  Sampson Elementary School was a three-story, red-brick building with a hint of limestone exterior detail.  Sampson Elementary School was located at 6075 Begole Street, near the corner of Milford Street, on Detroit’s west side.  Sampson Elementary School was a Sampson Elementary School housed students that were in pre-school through 8th grade and an annual enrollment around 600 students.  By the 2000’s, the number of students enrolled at Sampson had dropped down to just over 400 students.  Sampson Elementary School was named after William T. Sampson, who was a admiral in the United States Navy and mostly known for his victory in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, during the Spanish-American War.  Alumni and former students of Sampson Elementary School were known as the “Sampson Ponies,” as their school mascot was a pony.  Sampson Elementary School was a property of the Detroit Public Schools system.

Sampson Elementary School closed in 2006, when the school merged with nearby Weber Middle School and became Sampson-Weber Academy.  Sampson-Weber Academy is located down the street from the former Sampson Elementary School.  Just a few years after being vacant, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) decided that Sampson 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.  By 2008, 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 several years too.

The main reason why Sampson Elementary School held on longer then some of the other schools, is that DPS decided to also put the motion-sensor “Videofied” cameras inside of Sampson, as well as the VPS on the outside.  It was a away to protect both the exterior and the interior of the school, by having a prevention and an intervention method.  When Detroit Public Schools found the prevention efforts of the ill-fated VPS wasn’t quite working as they had hoped, they switched to an intervention method.  This method was the “Videofied” motion-sensor camera system.  The cameras were relatively small and would hang on the walls inside the vacant school.  When somebody would enter the school, the cameras would be turned on by sensing the motion and would begin recording. The video clips were then sent to Detroit Public Schools Police, who would respond to the according school.  By 2010, Videofied had been put in many of the newly closed schools and also some of the older schools.  Videofied became very effective and responsible for arresting hundreds of scrappers, trespassers, vandals, and even urban explorers.  The Videofied system was Detroit Public School’s response to the Vacant Property Security (VPS) dilemma.  Some of the more “popular” schools that DPS was hoping to sell, were lucky enough to get both VPS and Videofied.  Sampson Elementary School was one of those lucky schools to get both security measures.  Then the trespassers (mostly metal thieves) found out how to remove the VPS sheets.  They also would locate the Videofied cameras and smash them or find the receiver/recording box and smash that.  This would then disable of the cameras in he school.  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.  Although Sampson Elementary School held strong over the first few years with the VPS and Videofied, it was still no exception.  By 2013, the VPS metal sheets at Sampson Elementary School began to slowly disappear and the Videofied camera system had been disabled.  Sampson Elementary School started to loose it’s windows and then it’s doors.

By 2014, Sampson Elementary School had become destroyed by scrappers.

As of 2015, Sampson Elementary School still sits abandoned and without any plans for redevelopment or demolition.  The Detroit Public Schools police still keep a close eye on the school and will prosecute anyone that gets caught trespassing on the property.