University Elementary School

University Elementary School

The University had been interested in the problems of elementary and preschool education for some years prior to the erection of the Elementary School Building in 1929-30. For several years a branch of the Merrill-Palmer School, of Detroit, which had been maintained in Ann Arbor in a building provided by the University, had afforded practical training to students in child care and education. As the significance of this new development in the field of education became increasingly apparent, the erection of a building to continue and expand the program was proposed. At the June meeting of the Regents in 1927, the Board was notified that the state of Michigan had appropriated the sum of $1,100,000 for a site and for the construction of a laboratory elementary school. This amount, however, was subsequently reduced to $800,000.

The architects for the Elementary School Building were Malcomson and Higginbotham, of Detroit. Contractors for the project was Spence Brothers of Saginaw, Michigan.

The Elementary School was erected, in effect, as a continuation of the University High School Building, which had been completed in 1923-24, so that the two practically formed one building, although the newer section differed in some respects in design and construction from the earlier High School Building.

The Elementary School stood on the corner of East University Avenue and Monroe Street, filling the block completely to the parkway. The building, constructed of brick with stone trim had two wings, which, with the wings of the University High School at the north, form an attractive court used as a children╩╝s playground.

The Elementary School provided for the education of children between the ages of two and twelve years, taking them from nursery school through the sixth grade. It was equipped with complete facilities for the instruction of young children and had adequate provision for administrative officers and for the training of graduate and undergraduate students and other workers in child development.

From the time of the opening of the School until 1942 it was not used for student teaching for undergraduates. The policy was then changed because of the increasing shortage of teachers in the elementary field and because of an increased interest in elementary education among students at the University.

On the first-floor, passages from an attractive tiled lobby led to the library, kindergarten rooms, a gymnasium, a small auditorium, a health unit, and rooms where the younger children took naps and had their lunches.

Many facilities in the way of books, play, and special instructional material were provided in specially designed rooms. The second floor contains classrooms for grades two through six and for college classes, as well as offices and laboratories for the study of growth records and for the examination of the children. In general, aside from the suite of offices of the School of Education, the first floor was used for the younger children, while the second floor was devoted to the instruction of the older boys and girls. A number of rooms were equipped with observational balconies for use in the instruction of students. A third-floor playroom and a play court on the roof completed the facilities above the ground level.


The University Main Building


The University Main Building


Elementary School
(corner of Monroe & Parkway)
Elementary School
(corner of South University and Monroe)

Elementary School - First Floor Plan
Elementary School - Second Floor Plan

When the building was constructed a full basement was excavated but left in rough form. The basement served primarily as storage space for a period of years. During World War II it became for a time the headquarters for the supply department of military units at the University. As the need for space increased the interior of the basement was reconstructed in a substantial fashion and housed a Guidance and Counseling Laboratory, a Reading Improvement Service, a Group Dynamics Laboratory, and the offices of the University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp. A part of the space was devoted to an inactive collection of books transferred from the University Library because of crowded conditions there and to a collection of school textbooks of historic interest. The basement also provided space for a property room for the stage productions of the University High School.

Willard C. Olson (The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, p. 1735)