Chemical High School is a former Birmingham City School that was founded in 1901. The school moved to a new building in 1908 and joined the Birmingham City School System several years later.
For the first ten years, the graduating classes were small. 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.
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, Chemical 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.
The 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. Chemical High School closed after the 2005-2006 school year due to declining enrollment.
After closing the school was used by the Birmingham Board of Education as a storage warehouse and garage space for the system’s transportation fleet.