On the corner of Newport and Canfield Streets in Detroit is an old school. It’s an elegant old school, constructed of brick. The land it sits on takes up a full city block. The sturdy multi-level building has stood there since 1924, and like many schools in the city, is no longer in use due to a shrinking population. The surrounding neighborhood was once packed with small wood framed homes, full of families the school once served. However, only a few of those homes remain there today. The lots where the homes once stood have reverted to fields, and some of them are now being used as community gardens.
I’ve ridden by that vacant school many times over the past couple of years, and it has always been well maintained. The doors and windows were always secured as a deterrent against vandals and scrappers. Unfortunately, that has recently changed. Sadly, George S. Hosmer Elementary has recently been victimized by scrappers. The window coverings have been removed, and every window on all floors of the school has been taken out. I assume the windows’ steel frames were ripped out and sold for pennies on the pound at a scrap yard.
Looking at the place closely, I was amazed at the building’s craftsmanship. The tall window openings are surrounded by stone, and the few arched windows in the building have subtle carvings. The entrance door frames are quite decorative. The school’s name and build date are incorporated at the top. They appear to be hand carved. Stone also highlights the overall exterior, and the impressive brick work incorporate some nice round designs, adding architectural interest to the building.
Peering through the open window casements, I spotted a beautiful fireplace in what I think was the library. I saw plaster crown moldings that looked like new in an auditorium. Most of the rooms had oak paneling and shelves, some with books still stacked on them. The bathrooms contained solid marble walls and the gymnasium floor looked to be in great condition. It’s a shame to see such a well-built, outstanding building now standing open; an openness that will surely lead to further vandalism and decay.
As I was poking around, one of the neighbors walked by and said, “It’s a damn shame isn’t it? This place was boarded up not that long ago. Now look at it! They should have turned it into a rec center for the kids.” I had to agree, it is a damn shame.