Historic Detroit

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Hanneman Elementary School

The Detroit Board of Education initiated the construction of the 24-room Charles Hanneman Elementary School in 1916 to accommodate K-8 students within what was then Springwells Township.

Newspaper articles from the day indicate that the nearby Clippert Elementary School was over capacity to the extent that its pupils were required to attend classes on a half-day basis. The Detroit Board of Education therefore rushed the erection of Hanneman in order to better accommodate the neighborhood's booming, grade-school-age population.

The school was named after Charles Hanneman of the Springwells Township School Board, operator of a coal and wood supply business in Delray, then also part of Springwells Township.

The school was built at a cost of $155,203 and initially opened in September 1918 with 440 pupils enrolled. Like many other Detroit schools built between 1910 and 1919, Hanneman was designed without a large gymnasium or auditorium.

This two-story school is located one block west of Livernois Avenue and faces south onto McGraw Street. Clad in Flemish-bond brickwork, the Malcomson & Higginbotham-designed school has a three-bay central section, with each bay containing a row of windows. The margin between the first- and second-floor windows is adorned with decorative brickwork and diamond-shaped stone medallions. A simple cornice runs around the top of the building, above which stands a parapet with two semicircular crenellations. A stone belt course runs just above the basement level. Nestled against the projecting wall sections are single-story, flat-roofed entrance pavillions, with simple stone door surrounds surmounted by a pronounced stone belt course, and shield and floral medallions.

Over the next five years, the area's population continued to grow apace, and enrollment at Hanneman increased concurrently, expanding to 1,497 in 1923, 249 students over its capacity. The Detroit Board of Education erected a new portable building within the parcel that year in order to relieve the then-overcrowded conditions. The area's population dipped before World War II, with enrollment decreasing slightly with it from 1937 to 1946, and the school went from 14 sections to 12 during that time. By 1961, the school enrolled just 735 students.

Following the civil unrest of 1967 and Detroit's precipitous decline in population in the decades following, the Detroit Public School system closed the building in 2007 to cut costs and consolidate school enrollment.

In 2014, Hanneman School was among 57 closed Detroit Public Schools (DPS) properties given to the City of Detroit in exchange for forgiving millions of dollars in DPS' unpaid electrical bills.

The City released a report in 2021 that offered potential developers insight into the structural integrity and floor plans of more than 60 vacant schools - 39 owned by the City and two dozen still owned by the school district. The effort was not only to take inventory of the dozens of vacant schools dotting the city, but also to incentivize redevelopment of the structures by reducing the upfront costs through the assessments provided. The report pegged Hanneman School's redevelopment cost, depending on use, at an estimated $10 million, and cited heavy damage by scrappers over the previous decade of abandonment.

In August 2023, it was reported that Hanneman was among 20 former Detroit Public Schools buildings that the City planned to demolish. Crews began in January 2024, with the school being completely down by Feb. 9, when the City of Detroit trotted TV cameras out to celebrate the completion of the 100th commercial building demolition in a little more than a year.

Last updated 07/08/2023