Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, colloquially referred to as BPI, Poly, and The Institute, is a U.S. public high school founded in 1883. Though established as an all-male manual trade / vocational school by the Baltimore City Council and the Baltimore City Public Schools, it is now a coeducational academic institution that emphasizes sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It is located on a 53-acre (21 ha) tract of land in North Baltimore on the east bank of the Jones Falls stream which runs from the north near the "Mason–Dixon line" border between Maryland and Pennsylvania to the south emptying in the Northwest Branch of the lower Patapsco River/Inner Harbor between downtown and Fells Point. Also running parallel to the extensive Poly campus is the Jones Falls Expressway (Interstate 83). The Institute is located at the northwest intersection of Falls Road (Maryland Route 25) and West Cold Spring Lane, in northwestern Baltimore City, bordering the neighborhoods of Cross Keys to the north, Roland Park to the east, Hampden to the south, Woodberry to the southwest and I-83 /Jones Falls to the west and Park Heights and Pimlico further northwest. BPI and the adjacent Western High School (all girls - founded 1844 - oldest girls public high school in America and one of the oldest compared to private/independent/secular single sex schools as Poly formerly was until 1974) are located on the same campus, share several amenities including a cafeteria, auditorium, center courtyard and athletic fields, as well as a collaborative marching band recently united, now known as the Marching Flock (referring to the two schools' mascots - The "Poly Parrot" and the Western High "Doves").[6] BPI is a "Maryland Blue Ribbon School of Excellence" cited by the Maryland State Department of Education.[7]

The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
Baltimore Poly logo.jpg


Coordinates39°20′48″N 76°38′41″W / 39.34677°N 76.64469°W / 39.34677; -76.64469[1]Coordinates: 39°20′48″N 76°38′41″W / 39.34677°N 76.64469°W / 39.34677; -76.64469[1]
School typePublic, Secondary school, High School and "Magnet" school (formerly single sex school, all - male, 1883-1974)
Motto"Uniting Theory and Practice"
Founded1883 on Courtland Street (in the 300 block, later renamed St. Paul Street/Place) and East Saratoga Street (opposite present-day terraced Preston Gardens)
Openedbuildings/sites: 1883; 1913; 1967 (current)
School boardBaltimore City Board of School Commissioners (est. 1829)
School districtBaltimore City Public Schools (est.1829)
SuperintendentDr. Sonja B. Santelises [CEO]
School codenumber 403
President(student government) Marlena Milić (BPI '17)
DirectorJacqueline Willams[2]
Gender49% male; 51% female[4]
School color(s)Orange      and Blue     
Song"Poly Hymn"
Fight song"Poly Fight Song"
Athletics conferenceMaryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) since 1994 [formerly in the Maryland Scholastic Association - MSA (1919-1994)]
Mascot"Poly Parrot"
NicknameB.P.I.; Poly; Polytechnic; Tech; The Institute
Team name"The Engineers"
RivalsThe Baltimore City College ("The Black Knights" / "The Collegians")
USNWR ranking2,167[3]
Newspaper"The Poly Press" (est. 1909)
Yearbook"The Poly Cracker"
Budget$10,748,593.00 (fiscal year 2014)[5]


BPI was founded in 1883, after Joshua Plaskitt petitioned the Baltimore City authorities to establish a school for instruction in engineering. The original school was named the Baltimore Manual Training School, and its first class was made up of about sixty students, all of whom were male. The official name of the school was changed in the 1893 to "The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute" by the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. The first principals were Dr. Richard Grady, Lt. John D. Ford (U.S.N.), and Lieutenant William King (U.S.N.), after whom one of the three main campus buildings - King Memorial Hall was named in the 1980s. The first building was located on the former site of the old central City Spring on Courtland Street just north of East Saratoga Street of which the area was later contained in Baltimore's first "urban renewal" plan with the tearing down of five square blocks of houses along Courtland and Saint Paul Streets to the west and the construction of Preston Gardens and Saint Paul Place from East Lexington Street to East Centre Street in the north in 1923. The former BMTS / BPI building (and earlier elementary school dating back to the 1840s) became home to the Baltimore City Department of Welfare and was later annexed by neighboring Mercy Hospital (formerly named Baltimore City Hospital) on North Calvert and Saratoga Streets to the east and later torn down for construction of their first hospital tower in 1964. In 1983, at the school's centennial observation, a historical plaque was placed in the lobby of the hospital commemorating that earlier first home of the Manual Training School for 30 years, later to become "Poly". It just so happened in an amazing coincidence, that this building was across the street and 44 years later, almost a half-century after their long-time rival public high school The Baltimore City College ("City") was established in a row house in 1839 for a few short years, also on the now vanished narrow alley-like Courtland Street.

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute on the 200 block of East North Avenue, 1913-1967. Later renamed and served as the Calvert Educational Center until partially razed and renovated in the mid-1980s as the BCPS Alice Pinderhughes administrative headquarters (nicknamed "North Avenue")

North Avenue was formerly Boundary Avenue, 1818-1888 - northern city limits), between North Calvert Street and Guilford Avenue to the east.


Due to continued growth of the student population of the BCPS and especially in the growing demand for higher secondary education at high schools like at BPI and BCC and the girls schools, the technical school relocated in 1913 to Calvert Street and North Avenue. The former 1860s converted mansion of the Maryland School for the Blind was purchased sitting on a slight hill and two massive wings on the east and west sides were added with a Greek Revival style columns on the front facade. For the first time in its 30 years history "Tech" had a suitable building expansive enough to handle both its academic and technical education requirements. By 1930, the old original central wing of "The Mansion" was razed and replaced by a simpler center wing between the two flanking 1913 structures with an additional large enormous auditorium/gymnasium wing further to the east facing North Avenue were constructed. This massive assembly hall was the largest at the time in the city and served many secular/civic/cultural occasions and events for decades into the mid-1980s. While at this location, the school expanded both its academic, technical and athletic programs under the extensive longtime supervision of Dr. Wilmer Dehuff, who was fourth principal from 1921 to 1958 and reluctantly (see below) oversaw the racial integration of the school in 1952, the first instance in City of Baltimore public schools with admitting African-American/then called "Negro" - "Colored" students and two years before the rest of the nation took up this serious issue of discrimination addressed finally by the Supreme Court of the United States in May 1954 in the famous case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Previous black students had attended Frederick Douglass High School (formerly the "Colored High School" - second oldest in the nation - founded the same year as Poly - 1883) and the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School [8][9] Dehuff later served after his 37 years career at Poly, as the president and Dean of Faculty at the University of Baltimore on Mount Royal Avenue.


Most Baltimore City public schools were not integrated until after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. BPI had an unusually advanced and difficult college engineering "A" preparatory curriculum which included calculus, analytical chemistry, electricity, mechanics and surveying; these subjects were not offered at the black high schools in the City before 1952.[10] BPI was a whites-only school but supported by taxes on the general population. No black schools in the City (black students could not attend whites-only schools) offered such courses, nor did they have classrooms, labs, libraries or teachers comparable to those at BPI City College. Because of this a group of 16 African American students, with help and support from their parents, the Baltimore Urban League and the NAACP, applied for the engineering "A" course at the Poly;[11] the applications were denied and the students sued.

The subsequent trial began on June 16, 1952. The NAACP's intentions were to end segregation at the 50-year-old public high school. In the BPI case they argued that BPI's offerings of specialized engineering courses violated the "separate but equal" clause because these courses were not offered in high schools for black students. To avoid integration, an out-of-court proposal was made to the Baltimore City school board to start an equivalent "A" course at the "colored" (for non-whites) Frederick Douglass High School. The hearing on the "Douglass" plan lasted for hours, with Dehuff and others arguing that separate but equal "A" courses would satisfy constitutional requirements and NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall arguing that the plan was a gamble and cost the City should not take. By a vote of 5–3, the board decided that a separate "A" course would not provide the same educational opportunities for African American students, and that, starting that fall, African American students could attend Poly.[12] The vote vindicated the NAACP national strategy of raising the cost of 'separate but equal' schools beyond what taxpayers were willing to pay.[13] Thirteen African American students, Leonard Cephas, Carl Clark, William Clark, Milton Cornish, Clarence Daly, Victor Dates, Alvin Giles, Bucky Hawkins, Linwood Jones, Edward Savage, Everett Sherman, Robert Young, and Silas Young, finally entered the school that fall. They were faced daily with racial epithets, threats of violence and isolation from many of the more than 2,000 students at the school.[14] The first of those students to graduate from Poly was Dr. Carl O. Clark in 1955. Dr. Clark went on to become the first African-American to graduate from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Physics in 1976.

Modern campus (1960s–present)Edit

Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's campus
right: Dehuff Hall academic building

In 1967, then-principal Claude Burkert (1958–1969) oversaw the relocation of his school to its current location at 1400 West Cold Spring Lane, a fifty-three acre tract of land bordering Falls Road and Roland Park. Also occupying this site is the Western High School, an all-girls school founded in 1844. Notable buildings on the campus include Dehuff Hall, also known as the academic building, where students attend normal classes, and Burkert Hall, also called the engineering building, where students attend classes in the Willard Hackerman Engineering Program. Both Western High School and Poly students make use of the auditorium/cafeteria complex, and likewise share the swimming pool and sports fields. Although the two schools share these facilities, their respective academic programs and classrooms are completely separate from one another.

In 1974, Poly officially became coeducational when it began admitting female students. The first female to enroll and successfully graduate from the "A" course was an African-American named Cindy White (1974–1978). In the late 1980s, the title "principal" was changed to "director." After the retirement of Director John Dohler in 1990, Barbara Stricklin became the first woman to head the school, as she accepted the title of Interim Director.

Auditorium, shared by Poly and Western students

During Director Ian Cohen's tenure (1994–2003), Poly's curriculum was again expanded when it began offering Advanced placement (AP) classes. During the 2001–2002 school year, Poly was recognized by the Maryland State Department of Education when it was named a "Blue Ribbon School of Excellence."[7] In 2011, Poly was ranked 1552 nationally and 44 in Maryland as a "Silver Medal School" by U.S. News and World Report.[3]

In 2004, Dr. Barney Wilson, a 1976 Poly graduate, became Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's first African-American Director. In August 2010, assistant principal Matthew Woolston, was appointed interim Director. Later on during the year, Jacqueline Williams was appointed as interim director for the 2011–2012 school year. By the end of the school year – and after a two-year, nationwide search – Williams became the first female Director of the institution. Williams worked her way through the Poly ranks from student (Class of 1981), to teacher, then department head, to assistant principal, and to Dean of Students, before appointment to her current position as Director.[2]


Poly is a magnet school with specialized courses drawing students from across Baltimore's regular district boundaries. Admission to the school is highly competitive. Course concentrations include: the Honors STEM Program; the Ingenuity Project offering advanced science and math in conjunction with area universities; AP Capstone emphasizing Social Sciences and Humanities; and Computer Science.[15] In its 2019 nationwide survey of STEM programs spanning 2015–2019, Newsweek ranked Poly #36 among US high schools.[16]


Poly's Lumsden-Scott Stadium

In addition to the school's football program, Poly's sports include basketball, soccer, cross-country, track and field, lacrosse, baseball, hockey, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling.[17] The boys' basketball team won three state championship titles in a row between 2016-2019.[18] The Poly Engineers baseball team has won nine Baltimore City championships since 2005 under head coach Corey Goodwin.[19]


Since the early 1900s the Engineers, along with City College, had dominated the Maryland Scholastic Association (MSA) football scene. However, since joining the MPSSAA in 1993, Poly made it to the final game once in 1993, the semifinals once in 1997 and the quarterfinals in 1994 and 1998.[20]

Poly and CityEdit

The Poly-City football rivalry is the oldest American football rivalry in Maryland and one of the oldest public school rivalries in the U.S.—predated by the rivalry between the Boston Latin School and the English High School of Boston.[27] The rivalry began in 1889, when a team from Baltimore City College (City) met a team from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly), and has continued annually.[27] City leads the series with the record standing at 63–62–6.

Early yearsEdit

Little is known of the first American football game between Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) and Baltimore City College (City) in 1889, except that a JV team from Poly met City, in Clifton Park and City emerged the victor. That began the oldest football rivalry in Maryland.[27] City continued to win against Poly through 1901, however in 1902, for the only time in history of the series no game was played; though, in 1931, an extra game was played to compensate.[28] Between 1903 and 1906, City won the series, but the tide turned in 1907, when the first tie in the series occurred.[29] The next year Poly scored its first victory in the rivalry.[29]

1910s and 1920sEdit

Poly dominated the series in the 1910s. The only year of the decade that City won was 1912,[30] and between 1914 and 1917, Poly shut out City. Poly's streak continued through 1921, completing a nine-year winning streak, which City broke in 1922 with a 27–0 victory.[31]

In 1926, one of the most famous Poly-City games was played. Prior to the game, the eligibility of City's halfback, Mickey Noonen, was challenged. A committee was formed to investigate Noonen's eligibility, but Noonen's father—frustrated with the investigation—struck one of the members of the committee. The result was that Noonen was not only barred from the team, but also expelled from the Baltimore City school system.[32] In spite of Noonen's removal, the two teams met at the Baltimore Stadium with 20,000 fans in attendance. The game remained scoreless well into the fourth quarter. Finally, Poly's Harry Lawrence—who later became a coach at City—kicked a successful field goal from the 30-yard leading to a 3–0 victory over City.[27]

1930s and 1940sEdit

The 1930s ushered in a period of resurgence for the City team. Poly, which had dominated in the previous two decades, only picked up two wins in the 1930s.[30] In 1934, Harry Lawrence, who had kicked the winning field goal against City in 1926, became the head coach at his former rival.[33] Lawrence led City to a series of victories over Poly through the 1930s and early 1940s. In 1944, the game, which had been played on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, was moved to Thanksgiving Day. The change was the result of a scheduling conflict with the Army–Navy Game.[34] The game remained on Thanksgiving Day for nearly 50 years.

Lumsden and Young: 1950s and 1960sEdit

Poly won five straight games against City to open the 1950s, and 9 of the decade's 10 games, under legendary coach Bob Lumsden, for whom the school's current football stadium is named. Lumsden finished with an 11–7 record against City when he retired as head coach in 1966. He also coached 9–0 Poly to the unofficial National High School Championship Game at Miami's Orange Bowl in 1962, against the Miami High Stingarees, but Poly lost by a score of 14–6. The team's fortunes changed later in the 1960s, when City was coached by George Young. Young guided his teams to six wins over Poly, and an equal number of Maryland Scholastic Association championships.[35] One of Young's most memorable victories occurred on Thanksgiving Day, 1965, at Memorial Stadium, when undefeated City beat undefeated Poly 52–6.[36]


Poly controlled the series throughout the 1970s, and well into the 1980s. City lost a total of 17 consecutive games to Poly, before winning the 99th meeting between the two programs in 1987.[27] Poly's dominance during this period is the longest winning streak in the series. City also went on to win the historic 100th showdown a year later, before Poly got on another roll, starting with the 101st clash in 1989. Baltimore City's public schools withdrew from the Maryland State Athletic Association, in 1993, and joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA).[37] This change meant that the football season would end earlier, forcing Poly and City to move their game from Thanksgiving Day to the first Saturday in November. Poly and City met for the 119th time in November 2007, a contest marred by the outbreak of a large brawl outside M&T Bank Stadium after the final whistle. Poly and City met for the 120th time on November 8, 2008. Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Baltimore City College then met for the 121st time on November 7, 2009 with the score of 26–20. Poly and City met for the 122nd time on November 6, 2010. As of the 2018 game, City had won the prior 7 contests.


  • Dr. Richard Grady (1883–1886)
  • Lt. John D. Ford (1886–1890)
  • Lieutenant William King (1890–1921)
  • Dr. Wilmer Dehuff (1921–1958)
  • Claude Burkert (1958–1969)
  • William Gerardi (1969–1980)
  • Zeney Jacobs (1980–1984)
  • Gary Thrift (1984–1985)
  • John Dohler (1985–1990)
  • Barbara Stricklin^ (1990–1991)
  • Dr. Albert Strickland (1991–1994)
  • Ian Cohen (1994–2003)
  • Sharon Kanter^ (2003–2004)
  • Dr. Barney Wilson (2004–2010)
  • Matthew Woolston^ (2010–2011)
  • Jacqueline Williams (2011–present)

^ Denotes interim director while a search for a permanent director was occurring or ongoing at the time

Notable alumniEdit

Arts, literature, and entertainmentEdit




Judicial branchEdit

Legislative branchEdit


  • Paul J. Wiedorfer, 1939 – Won Medal of Honor at Battle of the Bulge.
  • Nicholas Colaiuta, class of 1942- Enlisted on September 9, 1943. Pilot of My Achin' B in WW2. Killed in action in 1944. Received Purple Heart, Air Medal, and other awards after death.
  • Donald L. Gambrill, class of 1942; USAAF WWII, Captain, lead pilot, 830th Bomb Sq, 485th Bomb Group (Heavy), 55 missions as B-24 pilot over Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania, Austria & Italy; Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart; KIA 10-Apr-45, buried Florence American Cemetery, Block C, Row 15, Grave 39, Florence Italy[63]



School songs and hymnsEdit

Poly Fight Song[69]

Poly proud are we
As we go marching
On to victory.
We are out to win, now!
Beat City's team!
Fight, fight for Poly.
Hoorah, hoorah, hoorah!"

Polytechnic Hymn[69]

-Written by James Sagerholm, Class of 1946:

"O Polytechnic, hail to thee
Our Alma Mater, hail to thee
We'll always loyal be and true
And fight on for the Orange and Blue.
Thy name we'll always hold on high
Forever, ever, B.P.I.

O Polytechnic, hail to thee
Our Alma Mater, hail to thee
Thy spirit ever onward go
And trample under any foe.
Be thy fair banner ever high,
Our guiding star within the sky."



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  • Leonhart, James Chancellor (1939). One Hundred Years of the Baltimore City College. Baltimore: H.G. Roebuck & Son.
  • Daneker, David C., editor (1988). 150 Years of the Baltimore City College. Baltimore: Baltimore City College Alumni Association.
  • Marudas, Kyriakos (1988). The City-Poly Game. Baltimore: Gateway Press.
  • Templeton, Furman L. “The Admission of Negro Boys to the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute ‘A’ Course.” Journal of Negro Education 23(1) (Winter 1954)
  • Thomsen, Roszel C. “The Integration of Baltimore’s Polytechnic Institute: A Reminiscence.” Maryland Historical Magazine 79 (Fall 1984)

External linksEdit