David Mackenzie High

Detroit, Michigan (Map)

Spring 2007/Winter 2011/12.


2007 was a prolific year for those people trying to close Detroit schools. Over thirty were to be closed & two of them were high schools. These weren't small, obscure high schools either, these were pillars of Detroit school history - the high schools of Mackenzie & Redford.

Although I don't find myself in NW Detroit very often, I knew about Mackenzie, liked Mackenzie, and I was saddened by its closure.

I wanted to take a few pictures before the school disappeared. If you also consider the fact that this was Jerome Bettis' alma mater & he just won a Super Bowl, then that was easily enough motivation for me to drive up Wyoming to NW Detroit.

Like many Detroit schools previously featured on this website, Mackenzie had that rich, dark wood throughout its classrooms and laboratories. I truly salivated within these laboratories, as many of the chemistry items were still in place, since the scrappers, vandals & picture-takers hadn't been here yet.

When you find a stack of copper sheets in a Detroit building? You know you're there early.

Of course if I'm writing about this in 2012, you've probably figured out that I returned to Mackenzie during the winter of 2011/12.

The destruction I found in 2012 shouldn't have surprised me seeing as 5 years had passed; but when you don't contemplate something, it will surprise you. On this second visit, it was similar to the times where I've explored a school just days before its demolition - everything was either ransacked, removed & decimated. The wood cabinets weren't of any scrap value, so I could appreciate those, but they were all worse for wear after being broken in search of scrappy valuables.

The iron gates which divided the school on our first visit were long gone. Where it was hard to find a missing locker during that first visit, it was hard to find a standing locker during our second visit.

During my 2012 visit, I knew of imminent plans to demolish Mackenzie, so if someone was feeding their family with these lockers, well then that's better than inflating Michigan's landfills with even greater amounts of waste.

The gym was still immaculate back in 2007. A half-inflated basketball was passed over & free throws were shot, while dunks fell pathetically short.

We both dreamed about how much fun it would be to have a bicycle race around the elevated running track as well.

I thought the only reason that the floor wasn't warped in 2007, was that the school hadn't yet seen an abandoned winter. I expected to return sometime and find a floor so warped, that it would rival the shores of Lake Erie during a midsummer's evening storm.

Amazingly, the floor was still in decent shape after 4 years of Michigan's wintertime freeze-thaw cycles.

The pool & the locker room didn't fare so well. The pool had some damage from scrapping of its copper pipes, but the locker room was unidentifiable as every last item was gone. Whereas it had been a room of lockable metal baskets, water cones & showerheads, it was now a room with a single tile island in the center.

I picked up one of the heavy, metal baskets on my first visit & I can't imagine lugging a full locker room of them to the scrapyard. The scrappers earned their keep that day.

I didn't take a picture of the auditorium on my second trip, as I figured the pictures from my first trip were good...

(Boy was I mistaken! Ha!)

The 1800-seat0 auditorium was shockingly unmolested when I visited in 2012. Normally these seats are quickly scrapped for their non-wood bases, but there was still a significant number of them left over.

0 - I calculated this manually by counting 41 rows in my picture, with 11 seats across, and 4 sets of these sections. 41x11x4 = 1848.
Look at the picture for a gauge of how accurate this could be.

The backstage area.

Mackenzie's library was one of the nicest abandoned school libraries I had ever seen.

I especially liked the 2nd story room, with its wall of windows overlooking the library floor.

Away from a little bit of peeling paint on the ground, the library remain relatively unchanged by 2012.

We hit the roof back in 2007, impressed that we could clearly see downtown from over 5 miles away.

Mackenzie is interesting & impressive simply in its size as an inner-city school. The more interesting quality, and what sets Mackenzie apart, are the southwestern-colored Pewabic tiles, terra cotta blocks and offset bricks which decorate the lines and gaps of the school's exterior.

I'm really glad I made it to the roof in 2007; as I did as I so often do, in that I took pictures of random nonsense & not the most important building features. At least going to the roof provided me with a couple of pictures which show Mackenzie's astonishing exterior.

Mackenzie is so large that it even consumed considerable time to simply explore the roof & its various edges. By this time, we had used up five or six hours and the sun was setting was on 2007 visit. We decided to get on our way before we would need to navigate by flashlight through the darkness of the building.

I quickly shot a picture of the Pewabic Tile lining the hallway near the offices as we were leaving, but skipped out on the main office due to time constraints (we were very hungry, thirsty & tired by this time).

Therefore some time was spent in the offices during my 2012 visit.

Looking out the window from the main office, I noticed that the flagpole even had Art Deco architectural accents.

(I was also surprised that scrappers hadn't stolen this flagpole yet.)

The portions of the school where new additions were added after Mackenzie's enrollment ballooned were quite evident. Walking down a hallway & into a stairwell, you could go through an elaborate doorway which acted as a portal to modern crap. I walked through one to find a cafeteria that was the same as your own boring, generic, high school cafeteria; so I assumed that walking through that elaborate doorway, would probably have left me outside back in the 1930s.

1 - Hat tip to JW. Totally bit this shot from him.

Continuing our circles of the school in 2012, I finally beheld the $21.8 million dollar, new PK-8 Mackenzie School.

I realize that a high school built for 4500+ students in the 1950s (Mackenzie High), would be inefficient when the enrollment hit 1100 in 2007; but I would think that less than $21.8 million would be needed to bring the old high school up to standards for a collection of elementary school students...

Although, what do I know?

By the tone of this update, and the fact that people generally don't enjoy giant abandoned buildings next to their elementary schools, you might have guessed that Mackenzie High has been 86'ed.

Adios to the home of the Stags.

The Wirt C. Rowland-designed David Mackenzie High stood near the corner of Wyoming & Oakman from 1928 to July of 2012.


Go Back to the Main Page of this Website

1 - Wikipedia - Mackenzie High School (Michigan)

2 - Wikipedia - Pewabic Pottery

3 - DetroitYes.com - Archived Thread, Good Old Mackenzie High School

4 -

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