Why does Pioneer High School have such a huge—and proud—alumni base?
The school is steeped in tradition. It first opened in 1856 at the corner of State and Huron as the Union School. It served 200 students, and the school later became Ann Arbor High School. In 1904, Ann Arbor High School burned down. During the next two years, classes met in churches and rented office space in the area while the school was reconstructed on the same site. It reopened in the fall of 1906.
The University of Michigan bought Ann Arbor High School in 1956, and it would become the Frieze Building. That building was demolished in 2007 to make room for the North Quad dormitory complex, although architectural elements from the old high school were integrated into the site.
In the early 1950s, as the post-war population increased across the country, a new high school was built on 177 acres of former U-M-owned land at Main Street at West Stadium Boulevard that had been used for football game day parking, a tradition that continues.
Pioneer was built over the course of three years at a cost of more than $6,000,000. The building included a large and small auditorium, specialized rooms for band, orchestra, and choir, a gymnasium, pool, and a planetarium—the first to be located in a high school in the country.
On April 9, 1956, 1,374 students reported for the first day of classes at the new high school.
Population growth mandated a second Ann Arbor high school. With plans for Huron High School underway, Ann Arbor High School became Pioneer High School—named after its mascot. From September through June of 1968-69, the Pioneer building housed Pioneer students and staff in the morning and Huron students and staff from 1 to 6 p.m.
Huron High took possession of its own building the following September.
Today Pioneer High School is home to 1815 proud Pioneers.