Historic Structures

Building Description David Preston School, Detroit Michigan

The Preston School represents the Victorian Romanesque style, emphasized in elements such as the round-arched entrances, contrasting texture and color of building materials, and variation in size and shape of fenestration. The two story building rests on an ashlar limestone foundation, surmounted by a high water table supporting brick curtain walls and shielded by a hipped slate roof.

The principal (east) elevation consists of three bays. The central entrance bay is marked by a projecting single storey, hipped roof, entry porch distinguished by rusticated limestone water table and a large Romanesque round arch. The archivolt of the arch is embellished by bead, astragal, diamond, and egg-anddart moldings. A rope molding extends across the top of the entrance, surmounted by basket-weave bond brick in which a centrally placed stone plaque states, "DAVID PRESTON SCHOOL, A.O. 1894." This bay's second storey fenestration is composed of recessed paired round arch windows flanked by small rectangular windows. A cast or sculpted likeness of a bearded man, believed to be David Preston, was originally positioned at the convergence of the paired window arches, but has been removed. Large brackets support the hipped entry bay roof. This elevation is strictly symmetrical, with identical, projecting flanking bays whose piercing pattern consists of ranks of four windows on each storey, creating an arcade effect. The limestone sills of the fenestration rest on brick corbels, while the surrounds of basket weave-bond brick are distinguished by the use of paired columns composed of pressed, curved brick between the window voids. Each of the flanking bays rises to a low-pitched hipped roof, carrying to the central roof, whose silhouette is broken by two large chimneys. The paired entry doors are recent vintage steel replacements.

The north elevation consists of three bays. As with the facade, the central entrance bay is marked by a projecting single storey, hipped roof, entry porch distinguished by a rusticated limestone water table and Romanesque round arch entrance. The projecting entry porch is surmounted by a recessed, round arch, second story window flanked by small rectangular windows. Large brackets support the hipped entry bay roof. The facade's symmetry is created by flanking, identical bays presenting ranks of three windows on each storey, that mimic the arcade effect initiated on the facade. Window surrounds are executed in diamond-bond brick and sills are unembellished limestone. The paired entry doors are recent vintage steel replacements. The south elevation is identical to the north elevation.

The rear (west) elevation also consists of three bays, but lacks a pedestrian entry. Its hipped roof, projecting central bay presents a symmetrical piercing pattern in the basement, first, and second stories, composed of central paired segmental arch windows flanked by smaller, narrow, segmental arch windows. Ornamentation is more restrained than on the other elevations, lacking use of limestone elements except for plain window sills, and employing soldier bond brick in the window hoods. Symmetry is still the rule, with identical flanking bays, whose piercing pattern consists of ranks of four segmental arch windows on each storey. Hipped roof dormers break the roofline above each of the flanking bays, and two large chimneys are centrally positioned on the roof above the central bay.

The floor plan of Preston School emphasizes the functional. Upon leaving the facade entry vestibule, the main double stairway leads up to the first floor central hallway. This stairway was replaced during renovation of the school. The school's side entrances also empty into stairwells that lead down to the basement and up to the first and second floors. The character of the first floor is formed by the central hall, which is spanned by two large arches with decorative capitals. The four classrooms on this floor, all with 13-foot, 8-inch high ceilings, flank the three stairways and occupy the corners of the building. Office space occupies the area opposite the main entry stair at the rear of the building.

Ascending stairwells that continue up from the side entrances, the second story plan is similar to the first, with four large corner classrooms displaying ceiling heights of 12 feet, 8 inches. It differs in the location of two smaller classrooms, centrally placed between the corner rooms, that occur above and in place of the first floor entry stairway and the office and mechanical space. The rooms and halls are purely functional and lack explicit ornamentation.

The basement is reached by descending the side stairwells. It consists of functional space, including the boiler room, storerooms, girls' and boys' lavatories, and offices, all with 9-foot ceilings. The corner rooms are large enough to serve as additional classroom space.