Memphis Technical High School

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Memphis Technical High School
To the stars through striving
1266 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee
United States
Founded 1911
Status closed
Closed 1987
Color(s) Blue and Gold
Mascot Yellowjacket

Memphis Technical High School is a now-closed high school that served downtown Memphis from 1911 to 1987. The current building was constructed in 1927. The beautiful building is still operated by the Memphis City Schools as The Northwest Preparatory Academy, serving children who are unable to function in a regular school environment.


Some[who?] think this special high school in Memphis began in 1878 as Hope Night School, a private school for boys who had been orphaned by the US Civil War and the Yellow Fever epidemic. However, new evidence has surfaced that the school actually began in 1911 as Memphis Vocational High School. The Board of Education authorized this new school in July 1911, and opened it September 1911, in the just-vacated Memphis High School building at 317 Poplar. The board opened it at the same time as the new Central High School opened, and it was meant " take the load off the new Central High, so that additional schools would not have to be built for some time".[1]

Memphis Vocational High School was the first vocational high school in the US. It had 72 students in grades 7 to 10 and classes began to grow immediately. In 1917, Mr. J. L. Highsaw, who had been a classroom teacher, became principal of the school. In 1918 the school name was changed to Crockett Vocational High School and there were now 4 teachers and 232 students. In 1921 the name was again changed to Crockett Technical High School. And in 1928 the school became Memphis Technical High School.

From the beginning the school suffered "growing pains" and a new building was needed. It was determined that the old nearby palatial Van Vleet mansion on Poplar Avenue would be torn down for the "finest school building in the South." The school board paid $90,000 for the 10-acre (40,000 m2) tract on which the home was located, and spent $500,000 to build the new school. The architectural firm of Hanker, Cairns, and Wallace was chosen to build the school. By the time the new building opens, "Tech" will be bursting at the seams - with an overflow of classes being shifted to the Jefferson Annex (Actually the old Fowlkes School on Jefferson).

In 1928 the new building at 1266 Poplar was completed and the official name is now Memphis Technical High School. At the main entrance there are four Corinthian columns, supporting a portico on the front. Certain elements from the old Van Vleet mansion were added to the site: Two stone lions at the east gate (They were moved to the entrance of the Memphis Zoo and more recently to a central place within the zoo), a great stone bench from the mansion's green house, and two huge classic urns at the top of the entrance steps. Indeed, the four columns and portico of Tech's entrance reflect the entrance of the Van Vleet mansion.

The equipment throughout the school was the latest and most modern. All lockers were recessed into the walls. On the first floor were the biology, physics rooms, along with home-making and dressmaking. And unlike most schools, the administrative offices were located on the second floor. Also on this floor were the commercial departments, including bookkeeping and typing. On the western side of this floor was the magnificent library room. On the third floor eastern side were the two splendidly arranged commercial art rooms. On the western side was located the beautifully equipped chemical laboratory and lecture room. By 1936, Tech had 47 teachers and over 1400 students.

Principal Highsaw retired in 1957 and Mr. W. A. Bourne became principal. He retired in 1975. Tech continued to grow until the "decline of the cities" in the 1970s. With changing demographics of the inner-city, it finally closed in 1987.

Notable alumni[edit]

Tech High School's front gate


  1. ^ 1
  • Memphis Commercial Appeal, September 4, 1911

External links[edit]