The story of a forgotten America.

St. Anthony High School

St. Anthony High School, also known as East Catholic High School, is a former high school of the St. Anthony Roman Catholic parish at Sheridan Street and Farnsworth Street in Detroit, Michigan. It closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2012.


In the mid-1850s, Bishop Peter Paul Lefevre donated a part of church-owned land in the northeast fringes of Detroit to 50 German families who requested to be a part of the future St. Anthony parish, which would be a branch from Old St. Mary’s, the first German Roman Catholic parish in the city. 4 Lefevre also donated a bell and $100 towards the construction of a church.

Lefevre then obtained parish permission to use lumber from the surrounding forests towards the construction of the sanctuary. 4 On July 5, 1857, a simple frame church building at 5100 and 5110 Field Avenue was erected at the cost of $6,000. 6 A school was added in 1865 and expanded in 1882. 2 A dedicated grade school was then built in 1896 2 4 at the cost of $30,000. 7

By 1880, 300 attended services weekly at St. Anthony’s, 6 but the building was soon packed to capacity. A larger twin-towered Neo-Romanesque style church was constructed in 1901-02, and the old frame church was sold to serve as a residence. 4

A high school was constructed at Field and Frederick Streets in 1918, 2 and an auditorium was added across the street in 1923. 5 A larger high school was finished in 1926 as an extension of the auditorium, 2 5 adding 13 classrooms and science laboratories. A larger gymnasium was erected adjacent to the school in the 1950s. 2


Due to racial tensions that cumulated in violent riots, industrial restructuring, the loss of thousands of jobs in the automobile industry, and rapid suburbanization in the middle of the 20th century, Detroit began to rapidly contract. The city’s population peaked at 1.85 million in 1950 and by 1970, it had dropped to 1.51 million.

Enrollment at St. Anthony peaked at 1,040 students in 1927 and remained relatively stable as the Archdiocese heavily invested in the school system to counteract the overall population decline. In 1969, several smaller Catholic high schools were merged into St. Anthony to form East Catholic High School. 2

Academically, the school was superior in instruction and had garnered the attention of the New York Times who reported that parents were removing their children from failing public schools and enrolling them at East Catholic. 3 Educational outcomes at the high school meant that 75% to 95% of the students were college prepared. The school was also the first in the region to work with punch cards in 1968, giving students an advantage in finding jobs in technology-related industries. Athletically, East Catholic was well regarded, which took home eight district titles in basketball in the 1970s and 1980s. 2

But the population drain of Detroit was just too great, and by 2005, East Catholic had just 124 students. 2 It closed by the end of the academic year, followed by the closure of the St. Anthony Church in 2006. St. Anthony reopened in 2010 with a new congregation that was separate from the Roman Catholic Church.

Work to demolish East Catholic High School began on January 16, 2012, and was completed by April 30. 1



  1. MacDonell, Frank. “East Catholic High School Demolition.” Archdiocese of Detroit. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. Pamphlet.
  2. “St. Anthony/East Catholic High School.” Detroit Urbex. N.p., 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. Article.
  3. Chira, Susan. “Where Children Learn How to Learn: Inner-City Pupils in Catholic Schools.” New York Times 20 Nov. 1991: n. pag. New York Times. Web. 7 Mar. 2012. Article.
  4. Tutag, Nola Huse, and Lucy Hamilton. “St. Anthony.” Discovering Stained Glass in Detroit. St. Anthony pg 91: Wayne State University Press, 1990. 91. Print.
  5. Cornerstone.
  6. Farmer, Silas. “St. Anthony’s Church.” History of Detroit and Wayne County and early Michigan. 3rd ed. 1884. Detroit: Silas Farmer, 1890. 540. Print.
  7. Ross, Robert B., and George B. Catlin. “Chapter XVI.” Landmarks of Detroit: A History of the City. Ed. Clarence W. Burton. Detroit: Evening News Association, 1898. 131. Print.

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