Brady School – The hidden history behind abandoned school

It was June 22, 2007 when Brady School closed its doors. Many people were interviewed that day. The school for many of them represented a landmark in the neighborhood. Those walls had raised whole families, from grandparents to grandchildren had sat in those desks. In the week before the closing of the school some alumni and former teachers took photos and visited their old classrooms. The halls of the school were plastered with old photos, some of which dated back to the 1980s., but the history of the school was started long before, in the ’20s.

In November 1921, 350 students and 13 teachers entered the building for the first time, designed by the architectural firm of Malcomson & Higginbotham in the style of Collegiate Gothic, featuring Pewabic Pottery glazed-tiles.

The Brady School took its name from a Detroiter and benefactor, George Newton Brady. He was pledged with the welfare of boys and young men, and in particular was associated with several charities such as the Fresh Air Society and the Boy Scout movement.

When the school was built, the district between Boston and Chicago boulevards (now known as  Boston-Edison district) had just started to grow, but many streets in the neighborhood were still unpaved and the transportation in that area was scant. The Brady School, for the first year of its life, housed children and boys from kindergarten through the eighth grade, before the Hutchins Intermediate School was opened in 1922 and the seventh and eighth grades were transferred there.

The Brady School was the first educational building that was built with the idea of future expansion according the needs and the applications of the neighborhood. Such planning was called “Brady Plan” and later other schools like Grant, Courville and Parker joined in this as well. The Brady Plan was a core pillar in the construction of school buildings in the city of Detroit and became a cornerstone to the building program of the Detroit Board of Education.

The first expansion of the school came in 1924 with the construction of a second unit which included 17 new classrooms, a gymnasium, two playrooms and a lunchroom. The total cost of this project was $365,110. After the expansion the Brady School had a capacity of 1,320 children.

In 1937 the majority of the children who attended the Brady School were Jewish, but the school was almost entirely frequented by African American children in recent years, this was a sign of how the district had evolved over the years.

The decline of the school came around the 90s when there was a drastic drop in the applications and simultaneously the school had problems with test scores for their students, as they were below average.


In 2000 the applications at Brady School were under half of its capacity and in 2007, the school was forced to close its doors.

So began a process for the preservation of the building, which was also nominated to be entered in the register of historic buildings. However, it wasn’t enough. Neither large sheets of metal to cover the doors nor windows or cameras could prevent the vandalism and degradation inside the school. As of Feb 2016 the building, which still has a powerful architecture and interesting structure, unfortunately still has these conditions and there are no plans for its restoration or demolition.

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