The Spirit of Northwestern High School Lives On in Baltimore, MD

The Rise and Fall of a Community Landmark

When Northwestern High School opened its doors in 1965, it held a special place in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. As a public high school, it was a beacon of integration in an era marred by racial division, offering quality education to all students regardless of their ethnic background​.

The school stood firm for over five decades, fostering community and camaraderie among its students and staff. However, the announcement of its impending closure in 2016 was incredibly disappointing.

Alums, educators, and community leaders rallied in a desperate but unsuccessful campaign to keep the institution’s doors open​.

Abandoned Northwestern High School in 2020

The Community’s Struggle

Northwestern High School was listed as one of 26 schools targeted for closure under the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, which formed the basis of the 21st Century School Buildings Program​. Despite these plans, the Northwestern community did not stand idle.

They waged a tireless battle against the closure​, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

School officials faced a tough decision. Renovating Northwestern’s sprawling campus would have cost an estimated $48 million, whereas the nearby Forest Park High School required significantly less than $13 million for renovations​​. Despite the community’s efforts, Northwestern High School ultimately closed in 2017.

battle against the school closure​ in 2016

Echoes of a Bygone Era

Northwestern High School left an indelible mark on its students and the community despite its closure. The school served a significant portion of students from low-income families, with nearly 80% receiving free or reduced lunch assistance, well above the state average of 38.5%.

The school is also remembered for its notable alums who went on to leave their marks on Baltimore and beyond. Among them is Sheila Dixon, who served as the Mayor of Baltimore City from 2007 to 2010, and Judges Jack I. Lesser and Barbara Waxman, who have done the District Court of Maryland, Baltimore City, for several decades​​.

A New Chapter

Today, the Northwestern High School building is not an empty shell. Instead, it has found a new purpose as a swing school for Cross Country Elementary/Middle School, which is being rebuilt as a 21st Century School.

Additionally, in the summer of 2025, the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute plans to move to Northwestern as a temporary space while its regular building is being renovated​.

While the school no longer operates in its original capacity, its legacy lives on. The building still bustles with students’ energy, embodying a beacon of hope and progress for the city.

Northwestern High School
Northwestern High School

A Symbol of Change

The story of Northwestern High School is emblematic of Baltimore’s transformation over the decades. While the school’s closure stirred up feelings of nostalgia and loss, it paved the way for new opportunities.

The building’s repurposing as a swing school and the future temporary home of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute symbolizes the city’s relentless pursuit of progress and commitment to providing quality education for its youth​.

The Spirit of Northwestern Lives On

Despite Northwestern High School’s closure, its spirit remains alive and well in the hearts of its alums and the local community. The school’s legacy inspires those who walk its halls, fostering a sense of unity and pride that transcends time and change.

Indeed, the memories of cheering on the school’s sports teams, engaging in lively classroom discussions, and forming lifelong friendships are etched into the hearts of its alums.

The closure of the school has only strengthened these bonds, as former students and faculty come together to honor and remember the institution that shaped their formative years.

Looking Ahead

As Baltimore continues to evolve, the Northwestern High School building stands as a testament to the city’s past, present, and future. While it may no longer be a high school, its walls continue to foster education and growth, echoing the aspirations of its former students while nurturing the dreams of new generations.

In the face of change and uncertainty, one thing remains clear: the spirit of Northwestern High School is as vibrant as ever. Its legacy will continue to resonate in the hearts of Baltimore’s residents, serving as a beacon of hope, unity, and unwavering resilience for years to come.

Comments: 4
  1. Avatar of Carroline

    This is my high school class of 2000 go wild cats.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your comment about Northwestern High School! High school years are a time of growth, discovery, and shared experiences that have left a lasting impact.

  2. Avatar of Diane Tilghman-Salmond
    Diane Tilghman-Salmond

    Mr. Spencer Walsh, We love the article you wrote about Northwestern. the Class of 73 is celebrating their 50th Year Reunion the weekend of June 9th,10th and 11th. Come see for yourself the comrodery, love and fellowship we have amongst not just our Class but The Classes before and After us. we will meet on Friday from 5-9 at The Pike in Pikesville , MD, Saturday 10th from 7-11 we’ll be at Martin’s West and Sunday we will be fellowships at New Shiloh Church on Monroe St. We would love to have you do a follow up about how much the school did for us in building relationships and keeping them for lifetime…Northwestern created “Family For Life”

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment. The bond formed during your time at Northwestern sounds truly special. Seeing how a school can create a lifetime of friendships is impressive—wishing you all a great 50th reunion!

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