University of Detroit High School

8400 Cambridge just north of the intersection of Seven Mile and Northlawn
in northwest Detroit

Christian churches frequently founded schools in the United States, often schools beyond the elementary level after states began to support primary schools in the mid-19th century. In the early 1870s, the Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Detroit asked priests from the Society of Jesus—Jesuits—to come to Detroit and establish a school. I believe he entrusted them with Sts. Peter and Paul Church on East Jefferson to serve as a home base. In 1877, they opened a secondary school for boys called Detroit College and then, two years later, they began teaching their first college courses. It is interesting to observe that the first two institutions of higher education to open in Detroit were founded by Catholic priests, since Father Gabriel Richard created the University of Michigan in 1817. In the early 1880s, the Jesuits commissioned the famous Detroit architect, Graham Lloyd, to design a massive educational building—the imposing Dowling Hall that you see on East Jefferson next to Sts. Peter and Paul. In 1911, the name was changed from College to the University of Detroit.

The automobile boom in the first three decades of the 20th century led to much population growth in northwest Detroit. The University of Detroit realized that it would be tremendously expensive to expand their downtown campus in the city's heart. Thus, they selected land at McNichols and Livernois for their new collegiate campus—one of several current campuses for the University of Detroit-Mercy.

They selected land just north of Seven Mile road in northwest Detroit for their secondary school. This is the massive building that you see in the photograph. It is a very large and attractively landscaped four-story sandstone structure. It is one of the best examples of Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture in the greater Detroit area. A highly embellished Baroque entrance compliments a very decorated front facing Seven Mile Road. There are many carved sandstone shields on the front, symbolically reminding you of the importance of scholarship. Above the four stories, you see the classic very dark orange—almost dark red—tiled hip roof. A large statue of the Virgin Mary reminds you that this is a Catholic secondary school.

In 2003, this school enrolled approximately 150 students in the seventh and eighth grades and just under one thousand in the secondary school.

Architect: William G. Malcolmson
Style: Spanish Colonial Revival
Construction material: Sandstone
Date of Completion: 1931
Use in 2003: Secondary School
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P25267, Listed November 16, 1981
National Register of Historic Sites: Note Listed
Photo: Ren Farley; December, 2003

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