Southern High School (Baltimore)

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Southern High School, on the eve of its conversion to the present Digital Harbor High School

Southern High School was a former public secondary school on Warren Avenue in the Federal Hill neighborhood of the northern side of the larger old South Baltimore community on the Whetstone Point peninsula (with historic Fort McHenry from the War of 1812 at the point and residential area known as Locust Point), just south of the downtown central business district and famed "Inner Harbor" of the City of Baltimore, in Maryland.

S.H.S. was originally built in 1910 as one of the first of a new national type of school becoming popular in American public education by the 1920s organizing grades seven, eight and nine together, then known as the "junior high school" (later reorganized and known as "middle schools" by the 1980s) and had a co-ed student body with both boys and girls for the first time in Baltimore City, which previously had four specialized/college preparatory/city-wide, sex-segregated high schools (all-male: Baltimore City College, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, and the all-female: Western High School, Eastern High School) since the beginnings of the Baltimore City Public Schools system in 1829. (These older schools were established in 1839, 1883 and 1844 respectively). Also a high school had been established in 1883 "The Colored High School", which later became Frederick Douglass High School. In addition, with also co-educational Forest Park High School later built in the 1920s in the northwest area of the City, these types of neighborhood/district "comprehensive" public high schools soon spread through all quadrants of the City, eventually numbering about 20 co-ed neighborhood high schools in Baltimore City by the early 1970s.

An addition to the east, also facing Warren Avenue at the intersection with Riverside Avenue was constructed in 1926. The new type of co-educational neighborhood public high school had a challenging new role in the Baltimore City Public Schools system. Now raised to the level of a full high school from its previous lower "junior high" status, the building was assigned the BCPS number of #70. Originally located on the southeast corner of Warren Avenue and William Street, three blocks to the east from the main commercial district of the neighborhood between Light Street and South Charles Street, with the adjacent municipal markethouse (one of originally eleven, later seven) of the Cross Street Market, established in the 1830s. The building was constructed of brick with limestone trim in a Jacobean/English Tudor style architecture used for a number of Baltimore City and other American schools of that era. Located on a 2.45-acre (9,900 m2) site adjacent to the sidewalks with rows of traditional Baltimore rowhouses on the east, west and south sides in the Federal Hill/South Baltimore neighborhood, but fronting towards the southern side of Federal Hill Park which overlooks the downtown skyline of the city's central business district and the former "Basin", now the famed "Inner Harbor". The Southern High building complex at its most extensive period contained an auditorium, three gymnasiums, a 500-person capacity cafeteria, library, six shops, six home education rooms, one laboratory, and 44 classrooms.[1]

By 1955, the school had an enrollment of 1,800 students, necessitating further enlargement of the facilities. Then Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro, Jr., broke ground on an expansion project designed to accommodate 600 additional students. This $2 million addition and expansion was completed in 1956, which added eight more regular classrooms, a double classroom, five new art rooms, eight commercial classrooms for typing and business machines, three music rooms, a three shops for machine, print and auto mechanic instruction, allowing the school to thrive while the city continued to grow.[2]

Construction of replacement building, 1976–1978[edit]

By 1976, when the school had again outgrown its capacity, Baltimore City Public School officials deemed it necessary to erect a new Southern High School, two blocks to the southeast in the 1100 block of Covington Street, overlooking to the east, the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River and the lower Baltimore Harbor, along with the Francis Scott Key Highway of 1913 ("Key Highway") and the shipyards bordering it on the waterfront from the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Upon its completion in 1978, the new building was capable of accommodating 2,400 students. The State of Maryland's School Construction Program provided $11.7 million for the project of the estimated total cost of $17 million.[3][4]

Transition to Digital Harbor High School, 2002–2005[edit]

The Covington Street structure still remains but the high school changed names and academic focus in 2002, being renamed and becoming the current Digital Harbor High School.[5] The last class of Southern High School graduated in 2005.[6]

Notable alumni[edit]

The original Southern High School building was renovated and reopened in September, 1981 as a condominium and apartment complex.[7] One of its most famous alumni, Hall of Fame baseball player Al Kaline, graduated from Southern High School in 1953 and began playing that summer as an 18-year-old in the Major Leagues for the Detroit Tigers.[8] Other notable alumni include professional wrestler Brian "Axl Rotten" Knighton.[9]


  1. ^ City of Baltimore Department of Education Bureau of research, School Plant Directory, by John L. Stenquist. City of Baltimore Department of Education Bureau of research, September 1, 1952.
  2. ^ "$2-Million School Dream Nears Reality", The Baltimore Sun, July 6, 1956.
  3. ^ Peter Buehl, "Firm of 'advocates' cuts school cost", The Baltimore Sun, Dec 12, 1976.
  4. ^ "Southern students, merchants to reschedule summit", Baltimore News American, November 27, 1978.
  5. ^ Liz Bowie (2002-08-30). "Officials to delay or stagger 3 city high schools' openings ; Northern, Southern, Lake Clifton affected". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  6. ^ Michael Olesker (2005-08-26). "City school may be sign of better days for system". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  7. ^ "Old Southern is on road to becoming Battery Place" The Baltimore Sun, September 13, 1981.
  8. ^ Official Profile, Photo and Data Book, Detroit Tigers (1957), p. 29.
  9. ^ Eck, Kevin (June 12, 2005). "After `Rotten' past, he returns to center stage". The Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 

Coordinates: 39°16′37″N 76°36′26″W / 39.276828°N 76.607329°W / 39.276828; -76.607329