Given the choice, would I rather examine some grand architecture, or some odd and forgotten specimens? You know, specimens…like pigs, frogs, larvae, rats, etc. Not long ago I was presented with the opportunity to see and photograph both of these inside an abandoned high school.
This school is most certainly one of the largest abandoned schools that I have ever been into, while also exhibiting some of the most wild and intricate architecture I have ever seen. It’s alway a shame seeing places of such grandeur falling to pieces, rotting away with time, being pummeled by scrappers.
The school’s history dates to the late 1920s. Built in Mediterranean Revival-style and standing at 3 stories, this building was opened on September 4, 1928, welcoming students through its doors. In 1928, the student population stood at 1,570, but by 1932 the figure had climbed to 3,750. The long halls now sit empty and quiet with only the fluttering of dust. Standing at one end, staring to the opposite end, all you see is a vacant space once occupied by students, now seemingly never-ending, stretching to the opposite side of the building.
Beyond the sporting venues of metropolitan Detroit, the Cardinals of Thomas M. Cooley High School are remembered as one of the most successful programs in the history of Michigan interscholastic athletics.
From its interesting exterior, to its hugely silent interior, sit the odd and forgotten pieces and parts left over from what was previously a science lab. A specific hallway had been designated as a wing for scientific study, each room serving a separate purpose.
There have been many notable alumni to come from Cooley High, including (the following list is straight from Wikipedia):
- Robert L. Chapman (1939), editor of Roget’s International Thesaurus
- Anita Darian (1945), opera singer, soprano voice in The Tokens‘ 1961 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight“
- Joe Ginsberg (1945), former MLB player (Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets)
- Bill Roman (1947), former MLB player (Detroit Tigers)
- Mike Ilitch (1947), Former CHS shortstop who created the Little Caesar’s Pizza empire; Mike owns the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings.
- Bob Langas (1948), played collegiate football at Wayne State; played professionally with the 1954 Baltimore Colts.
- John McKinlay (1950), was a member of two United States Olympic Teams, participating in the 1952 Summer Olympics, Helsinki, Finland and the 1956 Summer Olympics Melbourne, Australia in the sport of Rowing (sport). McKinlay won a silver medal in the fours without coxswain with his twin brother Art McKinlay in the 1956 Summer Olympics Melbourne, Australia. McKinlay also won 6 US Rowing Championships and 8 Canadian Rowing Championships. McKinlay rowed out of the historic Detroit Boat Club and also attended and graduated from Boston University where he was Captain of the Crew in 1954 and 55. United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics
- Art McKinlay (1950) Art McKinlay (January 20, 1932 – August 10, 2009) was an American rower who competed in the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics. He was born in Detroit and is the twin brother of John McKinlay; both were 1950 graduates of Cooley High School. In 1956 along with his twin brother John, he was a crew member of the American boat that won the silver medal in the coxless fours event at the Melbourne Olympics. Rowing out of the Detroit Boat Club with his twin brother John, Art McKinlay won 6 US Rowing Championships and 8 Canadian Rowing Championships.
- Marshall Rosenberg (1952) Rosenberg was the creator of Nonviolent Communication; he was also the founder and former Director of Educational Services for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, an international non-profit organization.
- Milt Pappas (1957), former MLB pitcher; won 209 games during 17 seasons with Cincinnati, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs
- Milan Stitt (1959), Celebrated playwright, screenwriter and drama professor; best known for his play, The Runner Stumbles
- James P. Hoffa (1959), All-City & All-State football player; lawyer; former President of International Teamsters Union
- Barbara Tarbuck (1959), Professional television and cinematic actress; most recently General Hospital and Walking Tall.
- Jem Targal (1965), bass guitarist and singer for the rock group Third Power.
- Rich Fisher (1968), longtime Detroit Television News Anchorman with WXYZ, WJBK, and WKBD.
- Rodolfo M. Foster (1969), (aka La Palabra), Afro-Cuban jazz musician/composer/impresario; contributor to the Salsa romántica genre
- S. Epatha Merkerson (1970), renowned Emmy & Golden Globe Award-winning actress; star of NBC-TV series, Law & Order
- Larry Fogle (1972), MHSAA Basketball Player of the Year; still holds DPSSAL single-game record of 73 points (vs. Cody High)
- Ricky Lawson (1972), Noted session drummer; also toured with Michael Jackson on his “Bad” tour in 1987.
- Dawn Adams (1988), MHSAA State Champion (women’s 300 meter hurdles)
- Willie Green (1999), professional basketball player with the Philadelphia 76ers
- Roy Tarpley (1982), former NBA player
- Chris Floyd, former NFL player
- Obie Trice, Rap Music artist
- Lional Dalton (1994), Former NFL player.
- Black Milk, hip-hop producer/rapper affiliated with Slum Village, Phat Kat, and Guilty Simpson
- Terrence Mann (1983), Southern Methodist University football player and NFL player with the Miami Dolphins