Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Higginbotham School

William E. Higginbotham School (High School of Commerce)

Higginbotham School was built on approximately four and one-half acres of land just two blocks south of Eight Mile Road, the city's northern boundary, in 1927 with a capacity for 580 pupils. It began as a kindergarten through eighth grade school, but after 1934, the eighth graders were sent to Post Intermediate School, resulting in a drop in enrollment to about 350.

In 1934, a nursery school was established in the building by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (F.E.R.A.), the first New Deal program instituted to help the needy and unemployed. A year later, F.E.R.A. was incorporated into the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A), the largest New Deal Agency created by executive order by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to stem the tide of the Depression.

A third unit to Higginbotham School was constructed in 1946 as the population of the area swelled with families of returning World War II veterans. A gymnasium, auditorium, homemaking rooms, six classrooms and an additional kindergarten were added. Temporary housing was located in the area of Higginbotham School by the federal government, and a three-room annex was added. By 1952, the temporary housing was removed, the school population declined, and the annex was finally vacated in 1955.

William E. Higginbotham School was named after one of the partners in Malcomson & Higginbotham, the architectural firm selected by the Detroit Board of Education as its architect for thirty years, 1893-1923. N. Charles Sorensen, the architect of Higginbotham School, worked for Malcomson and Higginbotham briefly in the mid-1920s before forming his own company.

Afterwards, he went on to design school buildings in several different styles for the Board of Education under his own moniker.

Last updated 29/03/2023