HUTCHINS SCHOOL: BEFORE AND AFTER, A STORY OF DETROIT

HUTCHINS SCHOOL IN DETROIT: BEFORE

HUTCHINS SCHOOL IN DETROIT: BEFORE

By Joyce Moore

Virginia Park CDC Newsletter

February 24, 2014

In March 6, 1922, HUTCHINS school which is located at 8820 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit, MI 48206 opened.  It was built to address the need for an Intermediate School for the 7th and 8th Graders. Most stable communities basically have three (3) schools: an elementary, a middle school (Intermediate) and a high school.

Chess team students at Hutchins-McMichael School in Detroit are: top from left, Larry Foster, Anthony Arnold and Ricardo Brown, all 11; second row from left, Dorrell Tolton, 13, Lamont Gilmore, 12, and Jirrell Echols, 11; and front row from left, Ernikka Johnson and Ashley Lee, both 10. They're joined by coaches Douglas Carey, 55, and Mary Rose Forsyth. They head to Pennsylvania for a championship. Photo taken 2008, one year before school closed in 2009.
Chess team students at Hutchins-McMichael School in Detroit are: top from left, Larry Foster, Anthony Arnold and Ricardo Brown, all 11; second row from left, Dorrell Tolton, 13, Lamont Gilmore, 12, and Jirrell Echols, 11; and front row from left, Ernikka Johnson and Ashley Lee, both 10. They’re joined by coaches Douglas Carey, 55, and Mary Rose Forsyth. They head to Pennsylvania for a championship. Photo taken 2008, one year before school closed in 2009.

Bringing the history more currently, a bond proposal to fund repairs to the city’s schools in 1994 allocated $5.1 million dollars to Hutchins, mostly renovations to the special education wing.  By 2002, enrollment had fallen, but the quality of the educational program had dramatically increased.  Hutchins students placed high at the 2003 National Academic Games and other events.

A new program brought Chess into the classroom, with some students joining associations and taking part in competitions.  In 2006, AOL announces it is creating the “Detroit Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology AOL Computer Lab at Hutchins Middle School,”  a classroom with 30 computers designed by teachers and student. (Internet)   This alone shows that the school was on the move to being a major asset to our community as well as to the City of Detroit, if only that was the Detroit Board of Education’s  plan.

Student hugs teacher at Hutchins as second waits her turn.
Student hugs teacher at Hutchins as second waits her turn.

The destruction of this once beautiful school and structure has resulted from the major players, [including Emergency Managers Jack Martin and Roy Roberts appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder], and the [previous] Detroit Board of Education and its neglect and politics in saving our schools that impacts upon the stability of our communities.  The fact that Hutchins is not boarded up, has allowed scavengers and scrappers to:  remove windows, doors, plumbing, wiring, any metals, etc. as well as destroy the structure, forcing it to become an eye sore in our community.  The visual sight is a devastation to the many students that attended Hutchins in the past.  It is disheartening to know that the people we have elected to take care of such a school, is neglectful and unconcerned about our community, creating more blight.  This building could have been sold through a realty as opposed to becoming the emotional and physical stress of a community for the many that have attended.

HUTCHINS SCHOOL AFTER/ Photo Feb. 25, 2013

HUTCHINS SCHOOL AFTER/ Photo Feb. 25, 2013

Further by creating “THE AFTER” picture of Hutchins and the age of the school, a destructive situation has exposed the surrounding community to carcinogens that pollute the air that we breathe as the asbestos is openly exposed.  The asbestos is absorbed through our skin, in our lungs and can lead to health issues.  Again not only a neglectful situation but a health hazard and issue to our community.

The bond that involved the $5.1 million property taxes paid by property owners for the renovations to this building is a major issue as property taxes are constantly rising.  Currently, we the tax payers don’t get reimbursed for such a waste and misuse of our property tax monies when the plan changes or fails.  According to a local retired professor, “We the tax payers need to be reimbursed and made whole regarding this audacious assault and violation of community sensibility.”

Across the street from Hutchins today: neighborhoods are destroyed when schools are closed.

Across the street from Hutchins today: neighborhoods are destroyed when schools are closed.


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31 Responses to HUTCHINS SCHOOL: BEFORE AND AFTER, A STORY OF DETROIT

  1. Earline Davis says:

    Even though I did not attend Hutchins school it makes me feel proud that Detroit taxpayers and to others that participated to rebuild this school like others in Detroit. Job well done.

  2. Sweet Chuck says:

    I wish that something could have been done to save that school. Class of 89.

  3. Phyllis Gibson says:

    I taught at Hutchins Middle School in 1968 and my students performed beautifully.

    • Kaitlyn Wattle says:

      Thank you for all you have done you’re essence still lyes in that building, despite the destruction state. I could feel the excitement and high energy there till this day, I would love to save the building, remove the toxins and make it a community staple of change. With hemp help, we can do it. Detroit has enough heart to do what’s right despite the political corruption. Who’s with me.

  4. S Merkison says:

    Oh Goodness, how sad I graduated from there in ’69….memorable times, walking down Woodrow Wilson across the Blvd and cutting thur Hitsville & Coles Funeral Home going to and from school

  5. Rachael says:

    I was also a student at Hutchins, my principal was Mr. Vanlowe. We called him blinkie!!! Mr. BUTLER, deep voice scared the hell out of me!! Mrs. Dennis the gym teacher, I think was a great experience. Wish I had the yearbook 1973

    • Marvin Davis says:

      I also was a student at Hutchins and the early 70’s and remember Mr. Vanlowe. He blink alot while taking that’s my we call him blinkie. (laugh). Great school, the teachers & classes. Photography class printing press & wood shop class and a big pool where I learn how to swim.

  6. Raven Walker says:

    I was there 01-04.. such a great school with a lot of great things to offer the students! Every time i ride past it bothers me. I would’ve never thought they would close this school! So many memories & great teachers I’m still in contact with today!

  7. Tone says:

    Class of 2002.
    I don’t remember everyone…but my music teachers were Mrs. Kneller (choir and piano) and Mr. Benoit? ( Band). I do remember Ms. Horvath ( Puppet Club) who would also send you to “Locker 20!” when you got in trouble for talking! What a unique program it was. We went to Lansing and all got to perform with our puppets and received certificates from the governor. This was a BIG deal to us middle school kids. Then there was the social studies teacher would say “Wunderbar!” when you did something good. Ms. Milne (our awesome gym teacher) and Ms. McClendon (homeroom) short but stern!
    They don’t teach/offer these sorts of things in schools in the city like they used to. Some schools really do try, they just don’t have the support or funding.

  8. Joy C. says:

    My grandmother attended the Mc Michael School (6810 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI) in 1935. Is there anyone who attended the same time, or have a family member who did? Was there a year book for the year 1935? I’d be interested to see a photo of my grandmother. She was 15 in 1935. Thank you.

  9. Melinda Lane says:

    My Dad went to Hutchins, class of ’41. So sad to see this happened to the school, I remember him taking me around the neighborhood back in the — I want to say 1990 or so I think.

  10. JOHN MCCURDY says:

    I was researching my father’s childhood and I found a picture from Hutchins School showing the 1924 Soccer Team. On the back my father wrote all the names of his teammates and coaches. My father was an orphan child, and attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana. I was not aware he attended school at Hutchins School as well.
    I will be eager to research some of the Hutchins School early history.

  11. George Herron says:

    Class of ’79, got a great education there,also probably one of the reasons I still play sports,saw mr. Van Lowe a few years ago at my former job at pewabic pottery.if th Joyce Moore that wrote the article is the same that used to live on Seward,we wer’e childhood friends,when you went with Kirk Pearson.that is,if this is the same person.

  12. Tom Diamond '49-'51 says:

    Thirkell Elementary (during WWII), Hutchens Intermediate, Cass Tech, Wayne (State) University, WSU Medical School, and then on to Harper Hospital for internship and ophthalmology residency. Mathematics teacher Harriet B. Gaston taught me to enjoy studying. But who could forget shop teacher Ole Olsen, who also judged the GM sponsored Cars of Tomorrow model contest? The Detroit I remember gave me a wonderful education. The Detroit Symphony’s children’s concert series instilled a lifelong love of classical music. I am thankful to have grown up in Detroit and pray it will someday be able to return to a place our children can be proud of.

    • Mel Wasserman says:

      Tom, I ran across your comments regardi1949-51ng Hutchins. I remember Miss Gaston. She was my homeroom and math teacher. Scared the daylights out of me. Fondly remember Imelda McIntyre who was the Hutchins Star advisor. Developed my interest in the media. Leonard Barouch the librarian was a gem.
      Mel Wasserman, 1949-51.

  13. Lorris Foster says:

    I attended Hutchins in 1939-1940. Way back when neighborhoods were beautiful, family friendly. Miss those days and so sorry to see what has become of this fine school.

    • I attended Hutchins at the same time. I must have been in the 1940 graduating class, as I started high school about 1940.

    • Julia VanCampen Schmitz says:

      My grandfather was a teacher there. Do you remember John VanCampen?
      I have a book of his from 1935-36 for the teachers book club.

    • Kaitlyn Wattle says:

      Thank you for sharing your memories! It is so helpful and inspiring as I see such beauty here. Especially around most of the closed schools. I want them, and reopen education. Properly. The children deserve it. Detroit is an open pallet, let’s live the way we see is fit healthy and friendly to earth. Let’s put Detroit back on the map and shine that heart that resides here to the world

  14. Evan says:

    Such a disastrous waste of resources. The School board makes a minimal to zero effort to maintain and secure these buildings. This is happening all over the Midwest. Central High in St. Louis, MO has met a similar fate. Is this what becomes of our country? We devalue education, we devalue our communities and in a sick, sad twist of fate, the same people who were so under served in these communities turn around and desecrate their own neighborhoods and schools. One of our ultimate tragedies, which I feel reflect the decline of society overall. This is a National problem. We currently have some of the worst schools in the world compared to other nations.

  15. sandra davis says:

    I went to Hutchins in 1973 I won the contest for naming the newspaper Hutchins Happenings. I won 5.00 abd a plaque with my name on . My class picture 1973-1974 was lost i was 13 yrs old a the time wish i had that picture to show my children and grandchildren that was one of my most memorable photos, wish the school had a copy in their archives .just wanted to share this with Hutchins. Alumnis.Ms Sandra Davis 7- 11-15

  16. Donella Bell says:

    Does anyone have the class pictures of the trip to Washington DC in 1967. The teacher in charge of this class trip was Michael Horwich He was the best teacher in he world. I wonder what happened to him. If anyone knows of his whereabouts.? Please contact me and I know 7t a long shot, but maybe someone still have a copy of the class trip to Washington DC .

  17. Mike says:

    AS ONE OF THE POSTERS NOTED, ATTENDANCE DECLINED (SMALLER CLASS SIZES), AND THE PERFORMANCE OF THE STUDENTS INCREASED. THE SCHOOL WAS A VICTIM OF ITS OWN SUCCESS. IT PROVED WHAT ALL OF THE RESEARCHERS AND SUCCESSFUL SUBURBAN SCHOOLS ALREADY KNOW. SMALL CLASSES, NUMEROUS ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS, COMMITTED PARENTS, STUDENTS AND TEACHERS WILL RESULT IN A SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL. THE POWERS THAT BE COULD NOT ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE.
    IT IS A DPS FORMULA TO CLOSE SMALL SUCCESSFUL SCHOOLS OR TRANSFER STAFF AND PERSONAL FROM THE PLACES THAT THEY ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT TO THE MARQUEE OR MORE WELL KNOWN SCHOOLS……YOU KNOW WHICH ONES I AM TALKING ABOUT…….I USE TO TEACH IN DPS AND NOW I DON’T TEACH AT ALL….GOD BLESS THOSE THAT STAYED..

  18. kay sue says:

    I went to Hutchins in the 1960.s And my kids also went there. It was such a beautiful school, I remember in summers going to play baseball on the playground. Swimming classes. And the teachers. It is a sad shame what happened to the school. But it is indicative of everything after 1967 in the city of Detroit. All resources left the city and all the demise was blamed on the inhabitants, those without the financial resources and the political clot to get things done. I stayed in the City until 3 years ago. I love Detroit, but could not take the abandonment by the political machine any longer. I am not talking about the local government only. Detroit was left alone years ago. like an abandoned child. Hutchins is just one entity of demise like most of Detroit. I miss the old Detroit. I loved growing up there. I loved raising my children there. Now it looks like a war zone in that area. I know it will get better but I am sure I wont be around to see the real rebirth. GOD BLESS AMERICA PLEASE!!!!

  19. Kizzie G. says:

    I remember my years at Hutchins. I never thought it would come to this. I am sadden by such loss and the non caring attitude about it. I wish that one one day it could be rebuild to what it was or better. But the chance of that is slim.

  20. Bill Robbins says:

    Ah, Ktina, I too have a better memory of the earlier Hutchins that I attended from 1939 to 1942. Our Boy Scout troop 179 also met there once a week in the evening and went to Zukin’s candy store across from Boesky’s restaurant on 12th afterward. When I finished high school at Cass Tech in 1946, I joined the Marine Corps at 17 and hadn’t seen the old place since. Did you know that Lily Tomlin, who lived on Hazelwood near 12th St., also attended Hutchins?
    I wish that now they’d bulldoze the place to install another, even more wonderful establishment, but that’s obviously never going to happen. Seeing it remain in its present condition is like visiting a cemetery where all one’s former friends and relatives are zombies, neitherfully alive nor dead, but awaiting burial.

    • Jim Alexander says:

      I too went to Hutchins, 1946-1947 and then on to Cass Tech. We lived at 1936 LaMothe and I could walk up 12th Street to get to school. Then we moved to 5051 Avery Street; I caught the streetcar at 12th and Ferry Park until I finished the 8th grade. Growing up in that area was perfect. All of the homes were well kept and the yards as well. No drugs no problems what happened?

  21. David A. Hartfield says:

    This was my turning-point grade school, I received many awards during my semesters in Hutchins as well as upon graduation. I find it horrific to see such an establishment condemed. If I had the proper influences I would have personally made sure this institution remained intact. It is so sad to see the structural integrity of such a great place diminished.

  22. Eileen (Dark) Cook says:

    I attended this school many, many years ago (I am now 90 yrs old) and it makes me sick at heart to see what has happened to this beautiful, beautiful school!

  23. ktina davis says:

    Yes,when i seen with my own eyes wht had happened with the school, my emotions ran high.i was hurt,crushed my whole family attended that school.I cried at the lost of Hutchins,the neighborhood and all that left with it,my children will only know of the Detroit i knew by wayof story and photos. Just sad

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