Wilbur Wright Vocational High School

Wilbur Wright Vocational High School came about as a result of a shortage of skilled laborers to work in Detroit’s rapidly growing automobile industry. At the time the public school system had limited vocational education programs, most of which were held at Cass Tech High School. Starting in May of 1928 the vacant Dickenson School was converted into a vocational school, but in November the building burned to the ground and the program was relocated while a new school was built on the site.

The first unit of Wilbur Wright School opened in January of 1930. Among the programs located there were graphic arts, interior design, painting, business, and automotive technology. Students would spend part of the day taking normal classes and the rest of the day learning a skilled trade. Wright provided a direct path for students to enter the workforce by partnering with companies. The increased need for metal workers and machinists led to the addition of a third story to the building in 1942. Such was the demand that the shops were left open 24 hours a day so that there would be no downtime. Another wing and a heating plant were added in 1953.

In later years the manufacturing and operating engineer programs were moved to Cass Tech to increase space for women’s programs, including hospital services, retailing, and sewing. In 1992 the school became the temporary home of the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, despite not having an auditorium or any music facilities. Ground was broken on a new building next to Orchestra Hall in 1999, but delays in construction pushed back the opening until 2005, at which time Wright closed. Plans to convert the school into a housing development were announced a short time later but never came to fruition. The school was demolished in 2010.