Ensley High School

Ensley High School

Ensley High School

Ensley High School in Birmingham, Alabama was founded in 1901 to serve the community of Ensley, which was centered around the booming steel industry. The school moved to a new building in 1908 and joined the Birmingham City School System several years later when Ensley was annexed by Birmingham.

Chemical City School
This Geography classroom was still full of desks, even a globe.
The small school library is packed with books and other miscellaneous items.
Chemical City School
Microscopes and projectors were left behind in one of the Biology classrooms.

For the first ten years, the graduating classes at Ensley were small. The first graduating class in 1903 only consisted of two students. Most of the classes consisted of less than a dozen students. In the 1920s, a major addition was added to the school which increased the capacity to over 2,000 students. Enrollment quickly ballooned as the nearby neighborhoods grew.

Chemical City School
A closet in the Chemistry department was filled with dozens of dry chemicals including several bottles of Ammonium Nitrate.
Chemical City School
The dry chemicals were thought to have been removed over 10 years ago when Ensley closed.

Chemical City School

Chemical City School
A large glass bottle of Sulfuric Acid was also found inside the former school.

34729199090_5b301116e8_kIn 1936, over a 100 students contracted food poisoning; which was traced back to cream puffs from a local bakery. The Jefferson County Health Department, which had been unable to maintain their inspections during the Great Depression,  inspected the bakery and discovered conditions to be filthy.

Chemical City SchoolChemical City SchoolChemical City School

Ensley High SchoolEnsley High School

Previously an all-white school, Ensley High School was integrated in 1964 without incident. However, racial segregation in the Birmingham area was still prevalent, especially after the collapse of the nearby steel industry. By the 1970s, the student body was predominantly African-American.

Ensley High School

Chemical City SchoolChemical City SchoolThe school’s three-story, 185,000 square foot building was designed by a local architect. The campus occupies 8 acres, including the athletic fields and parking lots. A separate gym and weight room adds another 20,000 square feet. Ensley High School closed after the 2005-2006 school year due to declining enrollment.

Chemical City School


Chemical City School

Chemical City SchoolAfter closing the school was used by the Birmingham Board of Education as a storage warehouse and garage space for the system’s transportation fleet. In the early morning of July 17, 2018, a passerby reported a fire inside Ensley High School. The heavy smoke could be seen from the interstate. By the time Birmingham Fire & Rescue made it to the scene, the school was fully engulfed in flames. Neighbors believe lightning may have hit the school and started the fire. Officials have deemed the fire as “suspicious” since the building did not have working utilities.

Chemical City School

Chemical SchoolChemical School

Abandoned Birmingham Book

Founded in 1871 after the Civil War, Birmingham rapidly grew as an industrial enterprise due to the abundance of the three raw materials used in making steel–iron ore, coal, and limestone. Birmingham’s rapid growth was due to the booming iron and steel industries giving it the nickname “Magic City” and “Pittsburgh of the South.” The city was named after Birmingham, England, as a nod to the major industrial powerhouse. The iron and steel industries began to dry up by the early 1970s, leaving behind dozens of abandoned structures that now dot the city’s landscape. In the last several years, Birmingham has begun to experience a rebirth. Money has been invested in reconstructing the historic downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district. In Abandoned Birmingham, photographer Leland Kent gives the reader an in-depth look at the forgotten buildings and factories throughout the city. This copy will be signed. Will ship on July 31.



17 Replies to “Ensley High School”

  1. Hi there,
    First of all, your photography is amazing. Do you know of any website or photographer who captures similar types of images within the state of Texas? I’m always looking for these hidden or forgotten places and the story behind them.

    thanks, John


    1. Another disgusting example of tax payers’ money squandered yet again not to mention letting a historical beautiful building fall to ruins. Shame on the the Alabama Governor and Alabama State Educators.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It has nothing to do with the Alabama Governor. It’s the ignorance of the feckless Birmingham, AL Board of Education. They have plunged the school system into complete disarray. It is so bad that the State of Alabama is stepping in to correct this mess.


    2. Ensley High School was located near downtown Ensley a couple of blocks from Avenue I. If you have ever traveled 20/59 South toward Tuscaloosa there are two exits, one at 20th Street and the other at Avenue I, both exit in Ensley.


  2. I’m just seeing your book link of all days my beloved school is burned. Sad day. I remember those classrooms. I loved Ensley High!!!!
    Class of 2002


  3. Thank you for the photo journal of Ensley High School. Even though it is sad to see this grand old high school in such a state of disrepair, it is good to see the pictures of my high school. I have many memories of my time there. Your work is awesome. Thanks, again. EHS Yellow Jackets! c/o ’77


  4. Ensley High School is no more as it burned down yesterday morning under suspicious circumstances. Glad these pictures and story exist so thanks to the author. I graduated from Ensley in 1982 so I knew the school and area quite well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My beloved Alma Mater! So heart broken that is burned down a few days ago.coukd you go back to the school now and take some pics? Or, if you have the time, explore some of the pictures taken by former students on Facebook. “THE STING WILL NEVER DIE!”


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