Brooklands School Will Be Demolished this Summer

Requiem for Brooklands School

By Deborah J. Larsen

Eighty-eight years after it welcomed its first students, the old Brooklands School on Auburn Road sits boarded up and quietly awaits a date with the wrecking ball. Rochester Community Schools officials have determined that the building has reached the end of its useful life and have slated it for demolition this summer.

The school was born in controversy. In 1927, the voters of Avon Township School District #3 – a rural district serving the Brooklands area – knew they needed a new school. Scores of autoworkers settling into homes in the new Brooklands subdivisions had swelled enrollment, making their frame schoolhouse on the north side of Auburn Road completely inadequate.

Brookland School 2016 - photo by Deborah J. Larsen

Brooklands School 2016 – photo by Deborah J. Larsen

There was no Question that a New School was Necessary

A bitter feud erupted over the building’s name. Since its founding in 1837, Avon District #3 had been known as the Frank District in honor of pioneer settler Col. John Frank, on whose farm the original schoolhouse had been built. Frank himself had served as the first moderator of the school district, and had helped to build the schoolhouse.

While the new building was under construction in October 1927, the district’s board voted to honor the new subdivisions by changing the school’s name from Frank to Brooklands. A faction favoring the traditional name then unseated the officers of the school board, seeking to reverse the decision. An injunction and lawsuit followed, and after months of litigation and another change in school board personnel, those advocating the name of Brooklands prevailed and the school building was so christened.

Detroit architect Byron E. Mills, a specialist in school design, planned the Gothic Revival building. Vickie Larsen Kriewall, who attended Brooklands School from 1957 to 1964, remembers the spacious kindergarten room in the northeast corner of the building. “It was pretty big, and it had a big bay window and terrazzo floor. Even when I went back there years later as an adult, I still thought it was a really big room. It had double doors going into it.”

Brooklands School ca1940 from the Ray Russell Postcard Collection, Rochester Hills Public Library

Brooklands School ca1940 from the Ray Russell Postcard Collection, Rochester Hills Public Library

Kriewall also has fond memories of the school’s central staircase. “It was double wide with a large wooden bannister, and every now and then someone got caught sliding down it. I was very good at sliding on it, and I never got caught.”

Like the other rural schools that dotted the countryside in Avon Township, the Frank/Brooklands District served students through the eighth grade and then sent them off to high school in Rochester. In 1953, the Brooklands electors voted to consolidate their district with Rochester’s, and Brooklands became an elementary school serving students through grade six.

Brooklands School was enlarged four times to keep pace with enrollment, but by 1991, the patchwork of additions was deemed unworkable for modern educational needs. An all-new Brooklands Elementary was built immediately behind the old school, and the final classes were held in the old building in June 1993. Old Brooklands was then repurposed to house the district’s adult education department.

The End will be Bittersweet

Old Brooklands has bragging rights. It can boast that within its hallowed walls, the first students in the Rochester district to receive doses of the life-saving Salk polio vaccine were inoculated. Known as “Polio Pioneers,” these children and other select groups across the nation were the first to test the vaccine in 1954. Carol Beens, then a Brooklands first-grader, bravely rolled up her sleeve to kick off the program in the Rochester district.

The school can also claim that a now world-famous alumnus once walked – or perhaps, raced – its halls. NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski attended old Brooklands in the early 1990s with the last classes of elementary students to use the building. “You never want to see pieces of your childhood go away and Brooklands Elementary school is one of those pieces for me,” Keselowski said in a statement to Rochester Media. “My brothers and sisters went to that school, and my grandmother even worked there many years ago. I can still remember a lot about that school, from eating in the cafeteria to what the principal’s office looked like! It’s going to be sad to see it torn down but progress isn’t always a bad thing. The memories that people have of that building from their childhood are what made it special.”

Read About the Brooklands School Dedication Plaque Missing

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen is the assistant director and local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She is active in the Macomb County and Rochester-Avon historical societies, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.


  1. Charlie Green says

    I remember sleeping on my own carpet in front of the hearth fire place after milk and snack back in1956. Watching construction on the first wing of a new addition. Then in 2001 delivering cleaning supplies to the adult education building and wondering the halls once again

  2. Sharon Dodman Kachinski says

    This school holds so many cherished memories. I loved my teachers and so many friends. I am still close to those friends, and unfortunately, so many of them have passed away. I was married to my first love, in 4th grade, to Patrick Ketter. Our playground marriage was performed by classmate Donal Deaton, and my close friend Judy Dimoff stood by my side, like I thought there should be, as I’d seen extra people on brides sides during weddings my family attended. We were married in the round about, where the buses used to drop of and pick up we students. My Mother was a Girl Scout Leader, at that school and I have many pictures of all of we girls in her troup. Sad to see that buiding un-useable for something, being torn down. I was in it 11 years ago, on a tour, and you could still spell the pencil dust, and bathroom soap we used back then. Like it was inbedded in the interior. Brought such wonderful memories. Thank you, for sharing this message, Deborah. You did a beautiful job. Bless you.

  3. john fredericks says

    i met my first 2 girlfriends here john f dee dee snap and janet mcaslin

  4. And yet on the East coast of this Country and overseas there are buildings hundreds of years old. It’s not that it can’t be saved, it’s just that the RCS District has decided it’s no longer useful and too expensive to fix. Why not sell the building to someone who will bring it back to life? History is disposable in this Country. Just sad.

  5. Martha Huebner says

    I attended Brooklands In the 1960’s as did my 4 sisters! We all loved Brooklands school and I am devastated that it was demolished. I wished I had the money to buy it before demolition as I would have renovated it if at all possible. I can still smell those peanut butter cookies wafting from the cafeteria! My elementary teacher was Mrs. Frankenmuth, she wasn’t my favorite but I remember her, as well as my science teacher Mr. Scaffury, where we did our first dissection of a rat, although I know that’s not how he spelled his name!
    The girls bathroom had a large round water fountain in the center so it could take on lots of little girls washing their hands. I also had my first taste of Elemers paste, it was actually pretty good!
    I remember lots of things we did there, from being up on stage with my classmates singing, to going to the gym and using the stilts or holding onto the edge of that huge round parachute to fluff it way up high and then we would all let go and run under it as it gently fell down on top of us!
    My best friends names were Renee Labarge and Carol Benjamin, oh how I loved those girls as they were part of my childhood and how I could never forget them.
    This school is surely missed, and I just wished I had something from Brooklands, like a desk or chalkboard, or even a brick. Brooklands will forever hold a part in our hearts.

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