Dearborn High Origins

Upstairs Downstairs School Sketch by Damon Frutchey

Dearborn’s first schoolhouse capable of holding 25 students was constructed in 1835. A much larger structure containing rooms on a lower and upper level replaced that school in 1857. The new school was sometimes called the Upstairs Downstairs School and at other times was referred to as the Dearborn Union School because it served multiple former school districts.

Receipt from the construction of the Upstairs Downstairs School
From 1857 until early 1894, the Upstairs Downstairs School located at what is now the southwest corner of Park and Monroe Streets served as the primary education building of Dearborn. In the above 1860 map, it is marked as “S.H.”
Upstairs Downstairs School Class in 1891

The Upstairs Downstairs School only served students up through eighth grade. By the 1890s, the two rooms of the school were in poor condition and over capacity.

An 1890 school inspection reported the school had two children to a desk and lacked basic amenities like a dictionary.

The need to construct a new Dearborn school was apparent by the 1890s. Offered for the construction of a new school was the site of the Detroit Arsenal Barracks and Surgeon’s Quarters. Both structures were torn down and their bricks were reused for the 1893 construction of the first Dearborn High School.

Above is a photo of Doctor Edward Snow and School Superintendent Eber Yost as the Arsenal buildings were torn down and below is a copy of the demolition contract for those structures.

Dearborn High School first opened on Monroe Street just north of Garrison during the 1894-1895 school year. Its first graduation ceremony happened only a few year in 1897. The building also known as the Dearborn Public School initially housed students all the way from 1st through 12th grades in up to 8 classrooms. Until school population increased in the 1910s, only a few rooms of the school were in use.

Postcard of Dearborn High around 1910
Students in front of Dearborn High in 1895
Dearborn High School Eighth Grade Girls pictured in June 1912

As Dearborn greatly expanded in the 1910s and early 20s, Dearborn High School became extremely overcrowded despite elementary school students moving to what became Salisbury and Duvall Schools. Classes were often forced to meet in corners of school rooms. To offer commercial courses such as typewriting and proper science courses, the attic of the school had to be turned into classroom and laboratory space.

During 1919, 78 students went to Dearborn High School. By 1920, that number grew to 110 and it eventually grew up to 158 by 1923.

In 1921, an addition with Dearborn High’s first auditorium and gymnasium, pictured below, was opened. For the first time, basketball could become a significant sport at Dearborn High School. Around this time, Pioneers was first used as a team name for Dearborn High School.