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. 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 which increased the capacity to over 2,000 students. Enrollment quickly ballooned as the nearby neighborhoods grew. In 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.

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 School

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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.
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 inside the former school.

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Ensley High SchoolEnsley High School

Ensley High School

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

Ensley High School

Ensley High School
Before central heating and air, the school used radiators to heat the building during the winter months.
Chemical City School
Desks stacked inside the gymnasium.
Chemical City School
These trophies were scattered around the school before I put them in this trophy case for a photo.
Ensley High School
The drop-down ceiling and wood paneling were installed during a 1960s renovation.

After closing, Ensley High 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 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.

Ensley High School
A piano left behind in the downstairs library.
Chemical School
The steel used to build the staircase inside the school was made locally by U.S. Steel.

Ensley High School

Ensley High School
A fire damaged the vacant school in July 2018. In 2019, the Birmingham City Council voted to purchase the former school campus from the Board of Education for $50,000. The City of Birmingham plans to solicit proposals to redevelop the property.

Ensley High School

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Ensley High School

Ensley High School

Thanks for reading. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more amazing abandoned places around Birmingham, check out my book Abandoned Birmingham.

34 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

    Like

    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.

        Like

    2. Peggy what year did you graduate from Woodlawn? Ensley and Woodlawn were sports competitors until they closed Ensley.

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    3. 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.

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    4. PEGGY, where have you been. Ensley and Woodlawn were two of the original “Big Five” in Birmingham. Have you heard of the other three. In case you have not they are Phillips high school, West End high school and Ramsey high school. Perhaps Google next time instead of display your ignorance for the world to see. Ensley high school function for nearly 100 years, I guess you just missed it. Did you know your next-door neighbors? By the way, Woodlawn was Ensley’s biggest rival, especially in football. Ever hear of the, Crippled Children’s Clinic football game? I guess not.

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  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

    Like

  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

    Like

  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 2 people

  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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  6. When were your photos taken? It’s hard for me to believe they left trophies in the school when they closed it and they didn’t find a new home for books. What a waste and complete disregard for history.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I an doing a research project to get a historical marker placed at the site of EHS, and I find a lot of cofusion over the date that EHS was “opened” for use. You may not know this, but the original school was called Ensley School, and it was located at Avenue G between 23rd and 24th Streets, the same two streets that the existing school is located on, but now (until demolition this year is completed) on Avenue J. The Ensley School was a wooden structure built by the City of Ensley and opened in September, 1901, and was renamed Bush School in 1903 after the first Superintendent of Ensley Schools, Ernest Forrest Bush. The existing Bush School carries his name also. The remaining students of the “Ensley School” were transferred to the new Bush School in 1923 when that school was completed. I still am unable to “tie down” much on what happened between 1901 and 1910 because the first graduating class that was “credited” as graduated from Ensley High School (two students) in 1903. They must have still been holding some high school classes at Ensley/Bush School until the “new” Ensley High School was completed. I have not been able to find the actual starting date nor the completed date of EHS.
    I did discover that the building project of EHS was stopped (at some point) due to funding issues, but I “think” that two rooms were completed and used until competion of the rest of the structure in _____? I also read that funding for the completion was raised by a tax placed on the many saloons in the area. Interesting if true. I think many of the reports placed the building completion date with the date Ensley was annexed into Birmingham in 1910. That is the date I am proposing on the above mentioned historic marker. If you know anything that is wrong with the above, please advise. I also would love to have a picture of the old Ensley School if anyone has one or knows where one is posted that I can copy.
    Bill Lammert, 1953 graduate of “Old EHS.”

    Like

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