|Photo Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart see more of his |
photos of Cooley at
My good friend Tim Miller wrote me shortly after I posted my letter. I have known Tim since grade school. We were in Boy Scouts and great friends back in the day. We used to play tennis, baseball, and toss the football around at Cooley High School. It was a great campus. I looked forward to going to high school at what seemed like a wonderful place. Tim wrote as he often does to comment on my letters. He reminisced about the old neighborhood and the year he spent at Cooley.
In 1968-1969, Cooley was not the High School we had thought about going to. The building, the architecture, had not changed but the student body had changed. The change reflected the changing demographics of the city. Cooley was transition from being an all-white school to an all-black one and it was not a smooth one. Cooley’s transition was simply a reflection of the times. Whites were abandoning the city. Black people were expressing their discontent with years of discrimination. It was just two years after the Detroit Riots of 1967 that polarized the city and divided the races. Tim’s year at Cooley, before his family moved to Livonia, was tough. He was jumped his first day there, he was shot at his last day, his friend from middle school who was black stopped socializing with him due to the polarization of the races, and other minor day to day pressures that made a not entirely pleasurable experience.
|Photo Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart|
see more of his photos of Cooley at
Cooley just became another victim of what was generally happening to Detroit. Cooley closed on July 30, 2010 due declining enrollment. It is a shame. It was probably necessary as they closed several Detroit Schools at the same time. In the greater scheme of what has happened to the city, the closing of one high school is but a small chapter or maybe even a footnote. It is a symbol. Everyone that loves the city has memories of what made the city grand for them back when the city was grand. Cooley High has been such an icon for me.
Why was I so impressed with Cooley? Why did the architecture impress me so?
Cooley was designed and built in what is called the Spanish or Mediterranean Renaissance style. It is one of the few examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture in Michigan. Most other examples of this style architecture are in places like Miami and Southern California where the climate is more like the lands in which this style of architecture was created. The architects of the building were Donaldson and Meier, a firm founded in Detroit in 1880. Other notable buildings from this firm include the David Stott and Penobscot buildings that help define the Detroit skyline. The firm also designed the Beaumont tower on the Michigan State University and the Dental Building and Alumni Hall at the University of Michigan. It would be interesting to know how they chose this style of architecture for the building.
|Cooley High School just after it opened in 1928|
|Cooley in 2008|
The most notable graduates of Cooley High School was Jimmy Hoffa, the famed leader of the Teamsters, and Mike Ilitch the owner of Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Tigers, and the Detroit Red Wings. Cooley produced three major league baseball players: Joe Ginsberg, Bill Roman, and Milt Pappas. Milt Pappas used to return to Cooley when his team, the Baltimore Orioles, was in Detroit. He would warm up on his high school field to the delight of the youngsters. I believe Milt used to like to see the young ballplayers in his old neighborhood. I also believe Milt enjoyed pitching from the old high school mound.
|The Cooley Auditorium|
Time passes, things change, and nothing lasts forever. The closing of Cooley hurt a bit more than architectural closings. I hope the school is not torn down. I hope it can be reborn as a school or other useful community building someday. It is a treasure worth saving.