The most famous of the many graduates of East Technical School (known to locals simply as ‘East Tech’) in Cleveland, Ohio, was the famed Olympic trackstar Jesse Owens. Born James Cleveland — J.C., and thus ‘Jesse’— Owens in Oakville, Alabama in 1913, he moved with his family of 10 siblings to Cleveland as part of the great northern migration undertaken by many black families to escape the segregated South. A sterling athlete from youth, Owens equaled a World Record 100-yard dash while attending East Tech. The ‘Buckeye Bullet’ then went on to a stellar career at Ohio State University, individually securing a record eight NCAA titles. He secured four Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, marking a human accomplishment in stark counterpoint to the blatant racial superiority of host Nazi Germany.
East Tech had first opened its doors in October of 1908, as Cleveland’s first public trade school. Operating as a coeducational secondary school within the Cleveland Metropolitan School System, it was one of only five such trade schools in the nation. From its near-East side location, it served the young of many of the central city’s working class citizens in autos, manufacturing and industry. Quite probably due to the hard-working and physical background of many of its students’ families, East Tech quickly became a powerhouse of high school sports in Cleveland. The school’s Golden Scarabs captured 15 state titles in track between 1920 and 1955, with another half dozen or so in other sports. In addition to Jesse Owens, the school’s notable alums include the athletes Dave Albritton and Harrison Dillard.
The school’s current structures were erected at East 55th Street and Scovill Avenue in the early 1970s. East Tech now operates with a ‘small school’ structure, in which three separate and differently oriented schools — The Technology Institute, Lighthouse Academy, and The Leadership and Human Services Institute — function within one facility.
To passing views, East Tech High clearly presents its Modernist architectural tendencies — the long and low horizontal structures, the discrete massing of multiple rectilinear forms, the subdued and limited palette of coloration, the straightforward presentation of ‘honest’ building materials, and the incisive detailing devoid of decorative flourishes.