High Schools That No Longer Exist
Not every high school was built to last, and in all 50 states across America, there's a history of high schools that have been forced to close their doors for good, for one reason or another. Some deserved it. Some didn't.
Each of those closed high schools across the United States contained their own unique history. They are epic stories of triumph and, sometimes, tragedy, that still need to be told in some form.
Here's a look at 30 high schools that no longer exist in the U.S., with each high school from a different state.
Marshall High School
Location: Portland, Oregon
Famous alumni: Nick Jones
Bottom line: Marshall High School thrived for the first 30-plus years of its existence, and at one point during the 1970s saw its enrollment peak at around 2,300 students — enough students the school had to go to block scheduling.
The 1970s were also the heyday for Marshall athletics. The football team won three city championships, a volleyball state championship in 1978 and, finally, back-to-back girls basketball state titles in 1981 and 1982.
An open transfer policy saw Marshall's enrollment plummet throughout the 1990s, and in 2010, Portland Public Schools voted to close the school.
Location: Reedsburg, Wisconsin
Famous alumni: John Harrington
Bottom line: Reedsburg's tiny South School actually existed in some form beginning in 1889. It went from a one-story to a two-story schoolhouse in 1895 and existed in this form until the new South School was built in 1937 and the old building was torn down and replaced with tennis courts.
South School was overwhelmed at one point, the only high school for a community of almost 10,000, until Reedsburg built a new high school, Webb High, in the late 1950s. South School changed to an elementary school with kindergarten through fifth grade in 1968 and stayed that way until it closed in 2019.
Detroit Southwestern High School
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Famous alumni: Jalen Rose, Anderson Hunt, Voson Leonard, Ben Carson, Dale Hansen, Tony Robertson, Howard Eisley
Bottom line: Detroit Southwestern's legacy is tied in large part to its amazing boys basketball program. The team lost in the state championship game seven of the previous eight seasons before 1990, when superstar junior guard Jalen Rose led them to the first of back-to-back state titles.
Rose went on to help lead the University of Michigan to back-to-back Final Fours alongside childhood friend Chris Webber and played 14 seasons in the NBA.
One of the more interesting chapters in Southwestern's history involved Detroit Free Press photographer Manny Crisostomo, who received permission to photograph inside the school for 40 weeks in the 1987-88 school year and won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. Crisostomo took his $3,000 prize for the Pulitzer and donated it to Southwestern to fund a journalism scholarship.
Kansas City Southwest High School
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Famous alumni: Robert Altman, Henry Bloch, Richard Bloch, Chris Cooper, Tech N9ne, Berton Roueche, Larry Winn
Bottom line: Kansas City Southwest High School produced some of the most talented alumni to ever come out of Kansas City — legendary director Robert Altman, Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper, groundbreaking rapper Tech N9ne and the founders of H&R Block, Henry Bloch and Richard Bloch.
It's probably a testament to how much Southwest High meant to the fabric of Kansas City that the school closed and reopened twice, in 1999 and 2005, until closing its doors for good in 2016.
Scottsdale High School
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
Famous alumni: Jim Palmer, Stuart Margolin, Dan Quayle, Fee Waybill, John L. Philips
Bottom line: Arizona state legislator and businessman Charles Miller donated the 10-acre plot Scottsdale High was built on in the early 1920s, and of the three students who graduated in its first class, two were Miller's children.
It was Miller's donation of the land that ultimately led to the school's closing in 1983. Strapped for cash and forced to choose between closing Scottsdale High or Arcadia High, the school district voted to close Scottsdale because the land it was on was valued at $10 million-$15 million — money the school district desperately needed.
Alcee Fortier High School
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Famous alumni: Aeneas Williams, Russell Long, Ashley Ambrose, Al Hirt, Jason Mitchell, John Kennedy Toole, Dave Treen
Bottom line: Alcee Fortier High was originally an all-boys school that's downward slide gained national attention in the 1990s, when it was declared one of the worst schools in the country by The Christian Science Monitor.
Before it became known for its failings, Alcee Fortier High was home to one of the great (and most tragic) literary figures of the last 50 years. John Kennedy Toole graduated from Alcee Fortier in 1955 before studying at Tulane, doing postgraduate work at Columbia and becoming a professor of literature.
Toole's desire to be a novelist was met with rejection, and he committed suicide in 1969. In 1981, his mother was able to have a manuscript he'd written and left on his dresser published. It was "A Confederacy of Dunces" and went on to sell 1.5 million copies, win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is considered one of the greatest American novels of all time.
Coffee High School
Location: Florence, Alabama
Famous alumni: Rick James
Bottom line: Coffee High School had a very unique place in the hearts of college football fans because of its football stadium, Braly Municipal Stadium, which hosted the NCAA Division II Football Championship for almost 30 years from 1986 to 2014. It also had an epic view of the Tennessee River from its front steps.
Braly Municipal Stadium also served as the home stadium for the University of North Alabama, which won three consecutive NCAA Division II national championships from 1993 to 1995.
After the 2003-04 school year, Coffee High closed its doors and merged with Bradshaw High to form Florence High School. Braly Municipal Stadium remains.
Beaumont High School
Location: Beaumont, Texas
Famous alumni: Babe Didrikson, Harry "Brink" Bass, Carr P. Collins, Dwight Harrison, Grady Hatton, Jiles "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Johnny Winter
Bottom line: Beaumont High grads are tied to some of the seminal moments in American history when it comes to sports and pop culture.
Babe Didrikson, perhaps the greatest female athlete of all time and a 10-time LPGA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, went to school there. So did Jiles Richardson, better known by his stage name, The Big Bopper. Richardson died in the 1959 plane crash that also claimed the lives of singers Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
In 1975, court-ordered desegregation of the school district led Beaumont to merge with a formerly all-Black school, Charlton-Pollard High, to become Beaumont Charlton-Pollard High School. Eventually, Beaumont Charlton-Pollard merged with French High to become Beaumont Central High.
Orleans High School
Location: Orleans, Vermont
Famous alumni: Henry Alexander Stafford, Susan J. Bartlett, Nancy Hall Sheltra, Kermit Smith
Bottom line: Orleans High School served the village of Orleans, Vermont, in the northwest corner of the state. Junior high and high school students came from Orleans and also from the neighboring villages of Albany, Irasburg, Coventry, Brownington and Charleston.
In 1933, the boys basketball team coached by Dick Jarvis won the state championship.
The school existed for 66 years before it closed in 1967 and was replaced by Lake Region Union High School, which still exists to this day.
Location: Bartow, Florida
Famous alumni: Herbert Dixon, Major Hazelton, Ken Riley, Sam Silas, Jerry Simmons, Jim Battle
Bottom line: Union Academy opened as an elementary school for Black students in 1897 and expanded to become a high school in 1923.
Over the years, Union became known as an athletic powerhouse in the FIAA behind legendary coach Forrest McKennie, who coached the boys basketball team and the football team and was also the athletic director. McKennie won four FIAA state championships in football — in 1954, 1958, 1960 and 1963 — and coached the basketball team to a 23-0 record and the state championship in 1957.
Following the end of segregation, Union Academy was folded into Bartow High School and Union became a magnet middle school.
Cleveland Central High School
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Famous alumni: Langston Hughes, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Noble Sissle, Louis Stokes, Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Bottom line: By the time Cleveland Central High closed its doors in 1952 and combined with East Technical High, its achievements in 106 years were enough that it could never be forgotten. It's a legacy of culture and music and art that resonates across the country to this day.
No single Cleveland Central alum is more responsible for making sure that legacy had legs than famed poet/novelist/playwright Langston Hughes, who was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance movement.
Few writers in American history have had the impact of Hughes, who wrote for Central's school newspaper and edited its yearbook.
East St. Louis Lincoln High School
Location: East St. Louis, Illinois
Famous alumni: Miles Davis, LaPhonso Ellis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Al Joyner, Cuonzo Martin, Ted Savage
Bottom line: We will take the murderer's row of East St. Louis Lincoln High alums against any other group on this list. Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, former NBA star LaPhonso Ellis and Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee all are alumni.
East St. Louis Lincoln dominated in both girls track and field and boys basketball through the years. When Lincoln was combined with rival East St. Louis Senior High, girls track coach Nino Fennoy and boys basketball coach Bennie Lewis Sr. were put in charge of the respective programs.
Holy Name Central Catholic High School
Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
Famous alumni: Bryan LaHair, Damien Sandow, Karyn Polito, Emil Igwenagu, Joseph Petty, Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Bottom line: Holy Name Central Catholic High School was known for its extracurricular activities during its 78-year existence, from the arts to athletics to National Honor Society and Christian Leadership initiatives.
In a pretty forward-thinking move, Holy Names became the first school powered by a wind turbine in 1984. The school announced it was closing following the 2019-20 school year and combined with St. Peter-Marian to become St. Paul Diocesan Junior/Senior High School and use the Holy Name campus.
Location: Unalakleet, Alaska
Famous alumni: None
Bottom line: You will not find a more remote school that has existed in the United State than the Unalakleet School, located on the far western coast of Alaska, on the edge of the Bering Sea and at the mouth of the Unalakleet River.
The school was built by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in the 1930s to help educate and serve the population of Native Alaskan Athabascan people, who lived in the area and operated until 1978, when a new school was built for the people of Unalakleet.
In 2002, the school's original campus was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
Oak Grove High School
Location: North Little Rock, Arkansas
Famous alumni: Darren McFadden
Bottom line: If you want to know who the greatest high school football player to come out of Arkansas is, just realize that Oak Grove High running back Darren McFadden needs to be in the conversation.
McFadden stayed in state to play for the University of Arkansas, where he was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, two-time All-American and a two-time Doak Walker Award winner as the nation's top collegiate running back.
When Oak Grove High closed in 2011, its student population went to the newly built Maumelle High School. Maumelle kept Oak Grove's mascot, the Hornets, but not the school colors.
San Francisco Polytechnic High School
Location: San Francisco, California
Famous alumni: Victor Willis, Luis Walter Alvarez, Warner Baxter, Janet Gaynor, Alice Marble, Rudy Rintala, George Seifert, Bo St. Clair, Martha Wash, Caspar Weinberger
Bottom line: San Francisco Polytechnic High School was originally called the Commercial School when it opened in the early 1880s. It changed its name to San Francisco Polytechnic in 1895 and was completely destroyed and rebuilt following the 1906 earthquake that destroyed 80 percent of the city and killed over 3,000 people.
The "new" school reopened in 1911, and by the late 1960s, half of its enrollment was either from Black or Filipino families. White families transferred their children to rival Lowell High en masse, and by 1972, declining enrollment numbers forced the school to close.
Wasson High School
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Famous alumni: Rich "Goose" Gossage, Robb Akey, Roc Alexander, Dan Audick, Scott Johnson
Bottom line: Wasson High School was part of a massive purging of schools in Colorado Springs School District 11. When it shut down in 2013, it was the 12th school in the district to shut down since 2009.
When Wasson finally closed its doors, it was only operating with about 50 percent capacity (barely over 600 students), and that came after it was combined with another closed school, Mitchell High.
Wasson High's athletic programs were a powerhouse in the 1970s and 1980s, winning eight state championships across five sports, including boys basketball and football. Before that, Wasson produced perhaps the greatest relief pitcher of all time — Hall of Famer Rich "Goose" Gossage.
Seton Keough High School
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Famous alumni: Theresa Andrews, Elizabeth Bobo, Asya Bussie
Bottom line: Some schools on this list closed because of falling enrollment. Others closed because of financial difficulties or new schools being built.
Saint Keough High in Baltimore closed because it was truly hell on earth — a haven for sexual abusers who preyed on the students as documented in the 2017 Netlfix documentary series "The Keepers" that focused not only on the abuse, but the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik.
"The Keepers" cited over 100 former students who came forward to say they were victims of rape, sexual misconduct, or molestation, and that Cesnik's murder and the ensuing cover-up were a direct result of her knowledge of the abuse.
Saint Francis School
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Famous alumni: None
Bottom line: Saint Francis was a private catholic school opened in 1924 by the Sisters of Saint Francis with a capped enrollment of 500 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Saint Francis was originally an all-girls school and stayed that way through 2006, when it announced it would go co-ed for the first time.
Because of economic hardships, the school was forced to close its doors in 2016, just two years after celebrating its 80th birthday.
Avondale High School
Location: Avondale Estates, Georgia
Famous alumni: Stacey Abrams, Donald Glover, Ray Stevens, Dorian Missick, Kelsey Scott, Erica Ash
Bottom line: While Avondale High no longer exists, its campus is now home to DeKalb School of Arts, a magnet school.
That it's now a home to future artists is a testament to arguably the most famous person to ever walk its halls — actor/singer/rapper/writer/director Donald Glover, a four-time Grammy Award winner, two-time Emmy Award winner and two-time Golden Globe Award winner.
Glover, who performs under the name Childish Gambino in his music career, created the hit television series "Atlanta," and his 2006 album "Awaken, My Love!" sold over 1.3 million copies.
Russell Military Academy
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Famous alumni: William W. Winchester, Ira Davenport, Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Henry Holt, Bronson Howard, Victor H. Metcalf, Charlemagne Tower Jr.
Bottom line: Originally known as the New Haven Collegiate and Commercial Institute before changing its name to Russell Military Academy when William Huntington Russell took over running the school in 1836.
Russell is a fascinating character in the history of the United States. The military academy, under his leadership, pumped out a steady stream of students to Yale and West Point in its 52-year existence. Most notably, Russell insisted on training soldiers to fight for the Union beginning in 1840 in anticipation of the Civil War.
While the school shut its doors shortly after Russell's death in 1885, his true legacy was as the founder of Yale's secret underground student society Skull and Bones, a group whose former members include some of the most powerful figures in American history, including at least two former presidents.
St. Anthony High School
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Famous alumni: Bobby Hurley, John Valentin, Rodrick Rhodes, Terry Dehere, Kyle Anderson, Willie Banks, Kaws, Markis McDuffie, Roshown McLeod, Tyshawn Taylor, Luther Wright
Bottom line: Before St. Anthony High closed in 2017, it was home to the greatest high school basketball dynasty in American history.
St. Anthony High head coach Bob Hurley Sr. won four mythical national championships, the first coming with his son and future Duke All-American Bobby Hurley at point guard alongside a pair of fellow future NBA players in Rodrick Rhodes and Terry Dehere.
In 39 years as head coach, Bob Hurley Sr. won 26 state championships and was named USA Today National Coach of the Year three times.
Big Creek High School
Location: War, West Virginia
Famous alumni: Homer Hickam, Freida J. Riley, Bob Gresham, Quentin Wilson
Bottom line: The story of Big Creek High School in War, West Virginia, has no bigger hero than former student, author, Vietnam veteran and NASA engineer Homer Hickam. His 1998 autobiography "Rocket Boys" was the basis of the 1999 film "October Sky" starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern.
Hickam and a group of friends who called themselves The Big Creek Missile Agency took to creating their own homemade rockets in high school, eventually qualifying for the 1960 National Science Fair, where they won gold and silver medals in propulsion and design.
Broadway High School
Location: Seattle, Washington
Famous alumni: Alice Ball, J. Ira Courtney, John Sharpe Griffin, Donald E. Hillman, Leo Kenney, Elmer Norstrom, John Monk Saunders, Ten Million, Monica Sone, Claire Windsor
Bottom line: One of the final commissions of famed architect William E. Boone, Broadway High opened as Seattle High School in 1902, was renamed Washington High School in 1906, and finally settled on Broadway High in 1908.
By the 1930s, Broadway High was booming, with an enrollment of approximately 2,400 by the 1936-37 school year. One of the more shameful episodes in American history led to the school's ultimate downfall and closing.
By the early 1940s, Japanese-American students made up almost 30 percent of the school's total enrollment. The students were removed as part of the Japanese-American Internment during World War II, and by 1945, the school only had approximately 1,200 students. In 1946, it closed its doors.
Rex Mundi High School
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Famous alumni: Bob Griese
Bottom line: No school on this list was open for a shorter period of time than Rex Mundi High. The school made it just 16 years before being forced to close its doors in 1972.
How does something like this happen? Look no further than the failings of Evansville's Catholic Area School Board, which decided it needed a third Catholic high school in Evansville alongside Reitz Memorial and Mater Dei. The thought was that enrollment would continue to grow.
Rex Mundi was built with the idea it would house 700-750 students, but it opened with just 200 students, and enrollment never reached those lofty expectations.
It did, however, produce one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in its short existence. Rex Mundi grad Bob Griese went on to become an All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year at Purdue, then won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, including the only undefeated season in NFL history in 1972.
Norway High School
Location: Norway, Iowa
Opened: 1920 (estimated)
Famous alumni: MIke Boddicker, Bruce Kimm, Hal Trosky
Bottom line: For the tiny town of Norway, Iowa (population: 466) nothing defined its history more than the legendary high school baseball program at Norway High, which produced three MLB players, including All-Star pitcher, World Series champion and Gold Glove Award-winning pitcher Mike Boddicker.
Beginning in 1965, Norway won 20 state championships in baseball. When the decision was made to close Norway and send its students to Benton Community High before the 1990-91 school year, Norway won its final state championship in its final year.
That championship inspired the 2007 film "The Final Season" starring Sean Astin and Rachel Leigh Cooke.
Heath High School
Location: West Paducah, Kentucky
Famous alumni: Steven Curtis Chapman, Julian Carroll, Stephen Vaughn, Daniel Webb
Bottom line: The greatest moment in Heath High history through its first 80 years was no doubt the day the football team won the 1986 Class 1A state championship, outscoring heavily favored Cumberland High 20-0 in the second half on the way to a 27-12 win for the first and only state championship in school history.
Heath High's legacy changed forever on Dec. 1, 1997, when 14-year-old freshman Michael Carneal came to school and opened fire on his fellow students, killing three and wounding five more. Carneal was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He's eligible to be released for the first time in 2022.
Duluth Central High School
Location: Duluth, Minnesota
Famous alumni: Wellyn Totman, Elmer McDevitt, Terry Kunze, Don LaFontaine, Jim Ojala, Ethel Ray Nance, Don Ness, Lorenzo Music
Bottom line: The people of Duluth went big when they built the original Duluth Central High building in the 1890s, becoming known for its grand clock tower, overly wide hallways and grand chandeliers throughout the school.
The original building lasted until 1971, when it was deemed unsafe and a new school was built. That school lasted 40 years until it closed with the last graduating class in 2011, leaving Duluth with two high schools today, Duluth East and Denfeld High.
Power Memorial Academy
Location: New York, New York
Famous alumni: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chris Mullin, Mario Elie, Len Elmore, Steve James, Bruno Kirby, Joe Mullen, Danny Nee, Dick Bavetta, Matt Centrowitz
Bottom line: Then known as Lew Alcindor, future NBA career scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led New York City's Power Memorial to a 71-game winning streak and three consecutive city championships in the early 1960s. He also was a two-time Parade All-American as the team went 79-2 with two national championships and one national runner-up finish.
Basketball stayed the key part of Power Memorial until it closed its doors in 1984. At one point, a few years before its closure, two more future NBA stars were on its roster, two-time NBA champion Mario Elie and Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.
Nebraska School for the Deaf
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Famous alumni: Alice Lougee Hagemeyer, Lyman Hunt, Nick Petesen, Dr. George Propp, Perry Seely
Bottom line: The Nebraska School for the Deaf stayed open for 120 years, and what it achieved and did in that time is nothing short of a miracle.
In the early 1900s, the school's very existence was challenged by a group of state legislators who sought to pass a bill to ban the use of sign language in the school in favor of teaching deaf people speech. With a heroic effort, proponents for the school and for sign language beat back the bill.
The school made history again in 1931, when its boys basketball team won the all-classes state title, defeating teams from hearing schools to win it all.
Financial difficulties and low enrollment forced the school to close in 1998, but the state of Nebraska now offers programs for deaf students in every county, and the Iowa School for the Deaf traditionally takes on students from Nebraska.