Historic Structures

David Preston School, Detroit Michigan

Date added: December 2, 2016 Categories: Michigan School

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the City of Detroit was experiencing rapid growth that was straining the fabric of its educational system. In 1894 Preston School was constructed to relieve overcrowding at the existing Tappen and Webster Schools. The architectural firm of Malcolmson and Higginbotham designed the school, having served as the Detroit School Board's architect under a renewable annual contract since 1891. The firm completed research into architectural plans for the most progressive schools built in the nation at that time, and visited numerous structures. Preston School was one of five designed by the firm and built by the school board in 1 894, (including Eastern High School, Western High School, Berry School, and Columbian School).

Malcolmson and Higginbotham completed the plans for the 91-foot by 73-foot, two-storey, building. Constructed at a cost of $22, 750, the 8-room school, with a seating capacity of 392, was ready for occupancy in February, 1895. Local contractors involved in the project include M. Blay and Son (masonry) and Vinton and Company (carpentry).

The school was named for David Preston, who arrived in Detroit in 1848 and entered into the banking business. A representative of the flourishing wildcat banking era, in 1852 he founded the David Preston Company, which functioned as a private bank until 1885, and was also a partner in the Chicago private bank of Preston, Kean and Company. In 1885, under the banking laws of Michigan, he reorganized the David Preston Company as the Preston Bank of Detroit. Preston was also a philanthropist, emphasizing Methodist causes. He provided generous grants to institutions such as Albion College, and assisted in organization or construction of Methodist churches in Detroit, including the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church, and Cass Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1880, he served as treasurer of a campaign that erased the debt of all Methodist churches in the city. An active prohibitionist, he ran as the Prohibition Party nominee for Governor of Michigan in 1884.

Preston School remained in active service, educating the youth of Detroit for nearly 100 years. In 1957 its status was reduced to that of an annex for Riverside School. Due to declining enrollment, Preston School was closed in 1981.