Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cass Technical High School

Opened in 1907, the original Cass Technical High School, commonly referred to as Cass Tech, was located at 2501 Second Avenue in Detroit. Named in honor of Lewis Cass, the school was located on the top floor of the old Cass Union School, a three-story brick building built in 1861 on a farm donated by Lewis Cass. In the early twentieth century, Detroit had three high schools and a city-wide graduation rate of 35 percent.

Cass Union School’s president, Benjamin F. Comfort, suggested that fewer students would drop out if they were given vocational training that they could use in Detroit’s growing factories. Detroit Schools Superintendent Wales C. Martindale visited Europe to learn about their successful technical schools, deciding to adapt their educational model to the new high school in the Cass Union School building. Martindale appointed Comfort principal of Cass Technical School, and in 1907 the school opened with an enrollment of 110 students. The first class graduated in 1910 with only six or seven students, but by 1909 enrollment jumped to 700 students and a new wing was added to the Cass Union School to accommodate the increased enrollment. Applications continued to surge until finally the City Council was able to find the money for a new building for Cass Tech. The new building, designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, began construction in 1916 but, due to wartime shortages, was not completed until 1922 at a final cost of $3.93 million (approximately $50 million today). Many locally and nationally known figures are counted among its graduates including Diana Ross, John DeLorean, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Anderson (aka Big Sean), Lily Tomlin, Peter Karmanos, and David Alan Grier.

In March 2000, Detroit Public Schools announced plans to build an entirely new building directly north of Cass Tech. These plans were met with resistance, as many alumni felt the original building would be “emotionally difficult to demolish.” Ground was broken in 2002, and a ribbon cutting took place three years later in 2005, though the old building was not demolished. In 2007, a large fire broke out in the old Cass Tech building and it was finally demolished in 2011.

In addition to a specialized curriculum, Cass Tech offers college pathway courses in arts and communication, business management, marketing and technology, engineering, manufacturing and technology, health sciences, natural resources and agriscience, and human services.



Cass Technical High School, 1922 - 2014.114.539

Cass Technical High School Dedication Program, 1923 - 2014.114.542


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