UMSL Art Professor Dan Younger stands in front of Cleveland High School. A graduate of the school himself, Younger has photographed the deteriorating building several times in recent years. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Known to many in south St. Louis as “the castle” because of the two turrets protruding from its midsection, Cleveland High School has become an unofficial community landmark.

Cleveland High School library

This 2015 photograph of the Cleveland High School library is by Dan Younger, a UMSL art professor. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

University of Missouri St. Louis Art Professor Dan Younger is all too familiar with the school. He graduated from CHS in 1964, and his parents graduated in the 1920s. Younger later returned to photograph the school and recently was featured in the Nine Network’s “Living St. Louis” spotlight of CHS.

Named for President Grover Cleveland, CHS served as a public high school from 1915 to 1984 and then as the Cleveland Junior Naval ROTC magnet school until 2006, when the structure was closed due to deteriorating conditions.

In 2009, Younger visited the school several times to photograph the interior. Many of the photos revealed interior graffiti, crumbling plaster and a treasure trove of left-behind items.

main basement hallway

Click on the image for a larger view of this main hallway inside Cleveland High School as it appeared in 2015. (Photo by Dan Younger)

At the time, Younger said what surprised him most was what was still there. He recalls that some rooms had gone virtually untouched and looked as if the class had just been dismissed for the day.

Over several visits in 2009, Younger and his junior and senior photography students captured pieces of the school and documented their discoveries in his book, “Cleveland High School: Exploring an Abandoned Landmark.”

Younger was invited back to CHS in 2015, but a lot had changed. The school’s caregiver had passed away, leaving the building more vulnerable to vandalism and theft. He documented that visit as well, showing wide-scale damage to the once-impressive building.

“Now in 2015 the building is a horror show of vandalism and neglect,” Younger said. “Vandals have stripped everything of value from the building, breaking through walls looking for copper plumbing, and the hallway ceilings are furry with dangling conduit and wires. Some have just done damage for no reason other than spite, broken ceramic drinking fountains, doors pulled off hinges. In 2009 the walls were covered with black mold. That has disappeared having eaten all it could, and the walls are now covered with graffiti, the abandoned spray paint cans left on the floor. It now rains as hard inside the auditorium as it does outside.”

Click here to see a gallery of photos of the inside of CHS. Younger will speak on the CHS photo collection at 1:30 p.m. May 21 at the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. A book of the 2015 photographs is also available.

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton

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