Historic Detroit

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

Wilkins Elementary

The Detroit Board of Education initiated the construction of Colonel William D. Wilkins Elementary in 1924.

The school, which was erected at a cost of $196,677, was opened in February 1925 with a capacity of 580 pupils. At that time classes were offered according to a 12-section platoon organization. The building's original plan was based upon the "Ferry Plan," which the Detroit Board of Education selected in order to accommodate the narrowness of the site.

In 1926, the school's population had ballooned to 1255 pupils, necessitating the establishment of six additional rooms within portable buildings which sat within the site. In late September 1926, a second unit was erected at a cost of $213,000 and allowed for an additional capacity of 700 students. With the new addition completed, the school could then accommodate a 24-section platoon organization.

In 1959, in order to address then overcrowded conditions, the Detroit Board of Education transferred the school's 8th graders to the nearby Von Steuben Junior High School. In 1976, as a result of a court order arising from the Miliken v. Bradley lawsuit, the Detroit Board of Education initiated a plan to de-segregate the City's public schools which included the bussing of nearly 22,000 black and white children and the reassignment of 8,000 more children (based upon boundary changes).

Wilkins Elementary, whose student body was 23% black at the time, was slated to become 50.2% black by the plan with the addition of 205 children from the schools from the nearby Atkinson school, which was 99.6% black.

The Detroit Public School system, the successor to the Detroit School Board, permanently closed the school in 2013 and subsequently sold the property to the City of Detroit in 2015.

The school building is slated for demolition in late summer 2024.