Bidding on Detroit’s first African American hospital ended at $196,000 during a tax auction Wednesday, but Wayne County abruptly decided to return the abandoned property to the Detroit Medical Society.
The decision came a week after we broke news that the former Dunbar Hospital – a vacant Romanesque Revival home at 580 Frederick in Midtown – was up for auction because the owners had accumulated $3,800 in delinquent bills.
The Detroit Medical Society later claimed it had no idea the house was up for foreclosure and said members invested more than $400,000 into the building.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department canceled the group’s water bill, which had reached $3,800 with late fees.
Wayne County officials didn’t return calls for comment.
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The Detroit Medical Society pledged to do a better job protecting the house.
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. After the hospital cleared out for a larger location in 1928, the building reverted back to a private residence.
The house is currently abandoned in a promising area of the city, just three blocks east of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
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.
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.