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, 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.

  • yeah_yeah_no

    Hey! Someone bid on it! I hope they have the means to bring it back to its former glory.

  • Liaison

    I can’t even believe the Detroit Medical Society allowed this to happen! !! The Detroit Medical Society is an organization of African American Doctors! This organization gets money from pharmaceutical companies, home care agencies, hospices, and medical devices companies to have elaborate dinners every month but they can’t pay a couple thousand bucks in taxes. Give me a break. What a shame!!! Shame.!!!

  • dointhebestican

    Does anyone know how long it has been vacant? The NPS site says it is owned by the Detroit Medical Society and is a museum.

  • falseprophet

    Nice classic American architecture. Too bad it is in the nations murder capitol.

  • Dan Freeman


    “If you don’t understand white supremacy/racism — what it is and how it works — then everything else that you think you understand will only confuse you” — Neely Fuller, Jr.

    NEELY FULLER JR- What Are the White Supremacist Doing Now ( cartoon)

  • Tracy Spencer

    A beautiful part of History this should be saved!

  • Lewis M. (Bill) Dickens

    It should be saved and so should Rosa Parks, memoirs.. they belong in Detroit.

  • Bob Delaurier

    “Charles Diggs, a prominent African American politician” You forgot the part about him being impeached and banned from national politics. The man was a crook who stole $ from his Washington staff. Check it out.

    • Bruce Channell

      And his funeral home on the Boulevard had some issues too.

  • beeohbee

    also, the attic window has been wide open as long as I have lived here

  • beeohbee

    I’ve lived across the street from it for 4 years. Pretty from a distance but up close you can see the foundation has some cracks and looks like may need a new roof. Plus one of the windows is covered in insulation & every so often the trash gets taken out… so may actually be occupied. Also, it’s on the National Historic Registry so that’s one more hurdle.

  • Hitz

    The property likely needs a lot of work. It’s been vacant for several years now. It once had a Historical Marker sign and the fence has been taken too, so it’s possible the interior isn’t in good measure too.

    The Detroit Medical Society owns it, but it hasn’t been habited for a long time now (was even up for destruction in the 70s)

  • Fired Up

    What restrictions are there with the sale? Can it be a commercial property? Does It have to be restored per thr historical society guidelines?

  • yeah_yeah_no

    GORGEOUS! I’d be surprised if this didn’t go in the first round.

  • bebow

    Three years’ worth of outstanding taxes, plus penalties and interest, on this property comes to $3,800? How does that happen? That’s slightly more than what’s owed yearly on a blighted rental shack in the worst neighborhoods.

    • muckraker_steve

      I’m looking into that. It may have something to do with their historic designation. Their taxes dropped significantly over the past three years.

      • Matt

        How does one go about putting a bid on this property?

    • JC

      It does not necessarily have to be three years of unpaid taxes (sometimes it is much longer). If a property has an unpaid tax bill, or even a partial one, that is over three years old, it is subject to foreclosure.

      • bebow

        Hmm, I didn’t consider the possibility of an overdue partial bill. Why would anyone stay current but leave a small delinquency hanging? Is it even possible?

        • JC

          If it is an absentee owner, it is very possible. The county will post multiple notices, but if it is vacant, or if there is an unscrupulous tenant who covets the property, the owner will not know until it’s too late.