Detroit’s first black hospital hits tax auction with $3,800 starting bid

580 Frederick today
Former Dunbar Hospital, 580 Frederick

Many treasures are buried among the more than 20,000 properties in Detroit that are up for auction because of delinquent water bills.

One of them is Detroit’s first black hospital – a vacant, but structurally sound Romanesque Revival home at 580 Frederick in Midtown. Bidding starts at just $3,800.

Former Dunbar Hospita, via Detroit Historical Society
Former Dunbar Hospital, via Detroit Historical Society

In 1919, a group of physicians converted the red brick house into Dunbar Hospital to serve African Americans who were denied health service by other providers, according to Detroiturbex.com, which features a fascinating before-and-after slider of the hospital. After the hospital cleared out for a larger location in 1928, the building reverted back to a private residence. Its most notable owner was Charles Diggs, a prominent African American politician.

The house is currently abandoned in a promising area of the city, just three blocks east of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The owner, the Detroit Medical Society, owed more than $3,200 in delinquent water bills and late fees dating back three years.

If the home doesn’t fetch the minimum bid, it could enter the second phase of the auction this fall with a starting bid of $500.

The house is part of the Frederick Avenue Historic District, which makes up two homes, including the next door Victorian house at 544 Frederick, which once was the former Bertha Hansbury Music School for underserved young black people.

Check out these 25 bargains and busts in the tax-foreclosure auction.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.