Monteith / Trombly School

Monteith School on the east side of Detroit has seen the best and worst times of the city. Planning for a new school in the Seventeenth Ward on the lower east side of the city began as early as 1903, as the existing schools in the area were overcrowded. It was decided to name the school for John Monteith, A Presbyterian minister, abolitionist and the first president of the University of Michigan. However, there was controversy over where to locate it.

The school board was split on building the new school next to the existing Scripps School on Kercheval, or on the Hibbard School site closer to the riverfront. The Hibbard School had been annexed to the city in 1893, and was closed in 1902 due to poor sanitary conditions, but reopened after protests by parents. Replacing the school became a priority for the district, which intended to build the new Monteith school on the site. A fierce debate continued through 1904 and into 1905, until the location for the school was settled in May. The old Hibbard building was sold and moved a few blocks away to become a temporary church, and construction on Monteith began soon after.

The school was designed by Malcomson & Higginbotham, and had 20 classrooms. By April of 1906 construction was nearly completed, and the school opened at the start of the fall term. Curiously, the name engraved above the entrance to the school was misspelled - Montieth instead of Monteith - an error that apparently went unnoticed at the time, as John Monteith had been dead for 37 years when the school opened. This has led confusion over the spelling of the school name ever since, with school records using both spellings at different times, sometimes in the same document.

In its early days, Monteith was attended by mostly French students, though over time the neighborhood diversified. Until 1921 there was no room for a playground, so students would play in the street in front of the school at lunch time, forcing it to be closed on school days. Enrollment rose and fell from around 600 in the 1930's down to 375 during the war years, then back up again in the late 1950's. Construction on an addition designed by the firm of Stickel, Moody and Associates began in 1961, which included a gymnasium and classrooms.

Monteith School closed sometime around 1980, and appears to have gone unused until 1989 when it reopened as the Eastside Middle School Development Center. A teen parenting program was added in 1993, and in 1996 the Charles C. Vincent Academy was housed in the school. When nearby Trombly High School closed in 2002, the program was moved into the Monteith building, which was renamed. Trombly was an alternative high school program that served the district's most at-risk students, some of whom were abandoned by their families, were wards of the courts, or expelled from other schools.

Trombly fell victim to budget cutbacks in 2010, when the program was transferred to Kettering High School, and closed a year later. The Monteith building was vacated in 2010. Despite efforts to secure a historic designation for the unique school, it has fallen into disrepair as scrappers have stripped everything of value from it.