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The School

First Proposed:

In 1926, following a period of sustained residential growth in the western area of the city. According to the 1956 Resume, it was the management of the West End Family Theater, a “forward-looking and civic-minded group,” that campaigned throughout the area for a high school, enlisting the help of other organizations. The  Birmingham Board of Education heard the strong petition and agreed that West End would be the location of the next high school built in the city.

Site Selection and Funding:

The school board explored several possible sites and settled on a twelve-and-one-quarter acre tract of land on Pearson Aenue between 18th Street and 18th Way, Southwest, adjoining the site of recently built Robert E. Lee Elementary School. In 1927 citizens voted for a bond issue to cover new school construction.


Warren, Knight & Davis, one of the leading institutional architectural firms in the state, prepared the preliminary drawings in a style complementing that of the recently built Lee School. From the beginning the strategy was to build the central main unit of the plan, with the wings to be constructed later to accommodate student-body growth and a wider range of activity spaces. (The western wing was the last to be built, in the 1960s.)


According to Patricia Crim Dietlein and Alvin W. Hudson’s Central Park & A Bit Beyond, construction contracts were awarded in December of 1929, and construction began without delay.  Dietlein and Hudson’s account states that the general contractor for the first section was Smallman Construction Company on a bid of $139,831.

School Opened:

September 1930. This means that construction on this major building was accomplished in nine months.

Principals of Early Years:

Newton Hosmer “N.H.” Price served from the school’s opening in 1930 until his retirement at the end of the 1955-1956 school year. At the start of the 1956-1957 school year, L. Virgil Wilder became principal.

Architectural Evolution Up To 1957:

The central block was built first (1930), followed by an auditorium (1950), a gymnasium and new classrooms (1950), and an eastern wing of fourteen rooms and a lunchroom (1955). The western wing followed in the early 1960s.

Student Body and Growth of the School:

The original 1930 building was intended to accommodate approximately 600 students, participating in the coursework and activities normal to a modern high school. When school opened in September 1930, enrollment was limited to approximately 200 first-year high school students from area elementary schools (Central Park, Elyton, Hemphill, Fairview, Robert E. Lee, Jackson, and Graymont Grammar Schools). These students were the first class graduating from West End High, in 1934.

By 1938, again according to Dietlein and Hudson, the school – never intended to hold more than a maximum of 750 students, had an enrollment of 1,000. There was no gymnasium – and not nearly enough restrooms. A variety of short-term strategies were employed to accommodate coursework and activities, including using halls as classrooms, holding band classes in the boiler room and other classes in a dirt-floored basement room, and eating lunch in a makeshift frame building on the school grounds. The school was so crowded that some West End residents of high school age were attending other city high schools such as as Phillips, Ensley and Woodlawn.

For years, the Board attempted to get money to build the plan submitted by architectural firm Warren, Knight & Davis for additional classrooms, a lunchroom, and auditorium. Bond issues, however, failed, and the WPA, appealed to on the basis of extreme need, did not award the District any money for expansion of West End.

It was not until 1949 that new construction began to address the overcrowding, followed in 1955 by yet more construction, which between the two building episodes added more than two dozen  new classrooms, a gymnasium, a lunchroom, and an auditorium.  The addition more than doubled the capacity of the school.

School Organizations and Activities:

According to John Walker’s very interesting entry “West End High School” in The Heritage of Jefferson County, Alabama (see BIBLIOGRAPHY tab), these student clubs were organized in 1931 and 1932: Aviation Club, Art Club, Carlyle Literary Society, Garden Club, Home Economics Club, Language Club, Letter Club, Library Club, Marshals, Pandean Society (Music), Dramatic Club, Press Club, Stamp Club, and Vagabond Club. The band followed in 1934, together with an orchestra. Other organizations followed later in the decade for Athletics, Science, Euphronian, Adelphia, Spanish, French, Debating, and Hi-Y.

School Publications:

In the 1950s, the school annual was the Resume and the newspaper The Welion, which had been published in a senior edition as early as the spring of 1940 and before that in other forms.

School Colors:

Blue and orange.

School Teams:

West End Lions

School Mascot:

The Lion

School Alma Mater:

Nobly enshrouded

With faith and loyalty,

Stands our Alma Mater

Stands old West End High

Pride of each student

May she ever be.

Hail to our Alma Mater

Dear Ole’ West End High!


After years of attempts to save the school or some part of its physical structure for use by the neighborhood, the West End High School complex was demolished in the spring of 2009.  A new consolidated elementary school, an attractive building designed by NHB Group, LLC, is being constructed on the site. The school will house Pre-K athrough fifth grade and incorporate students from Price Elementary, Powderly Elementary, and Lee Elementary. The name has not been finalized, but on April 18th a committee of the Birmingham Board of Education recommended that the school be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. 


Southeastern Exterior (57-12)

Southwestern Exterior (57-11)

Southeastern and Southwestern Exterior (57-13)

Eastern Exterior and Lunchroom (57-14)

Interior: Auditorium (57-10)

Around West End (57-66)

Demolition of West End – Spring 2009

Elementary School Being Constructed on the site of West End High in early 2011

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