Historic Detroit

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

Marshall Elementary School

The John Marshall School was one of 80 new elementary schools built in Detroit between 1920 and 1931, an almost unimaginable building spree needed to keep pace with an almost unimaginable explosion of population growth. The city grew from 465,766 people in 1910 to 1.57 million 20 years later.

Marshall School was named after the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Marshall, and opened in 1929. The school was designed by the firm McGrath, Dohmen & Page. The school originally was a two-story, U-shaped building with 27 classrooms, including a kindergarten. It also had a library, gym, auditorium and lunchroom.

Despite those 80 new schools, Marshall still wasn't big enough, and an addition with 10 more classrooms was built just two years after it opened. The school could now accommodate 1,750 pupils.

In 2014, Marshall was among 57 closed Detroit Public Schools properties given to the City of Detroit in exchange for forgiving $12 million in debt to the City's Public Lighting Department ($11.6 million) and Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department ($400,000).

The 63,000-square-foot school and its 2.71 acres were put up for sale by the City of Detroit but has found no takers. The City estimated that the building will cost $14.4 million to redevelop, with holes in the roof and vandalism and water damage racking up the cost.

Though the Nolan neighborhood is not one of Detroit's more in-demand areas, the neighborhood around the school is still mostly intact.

It remains unclear whether Marshall, with its stunning decorative tiles and stonework, will find a buyer before it follows a number of other closed Detroit schools to the architectural graveyard.