Detroit’s first black hospital pulled from auction after bidding reached $196,000

580 Frederick today

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.

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

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.

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

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.

  • misterelrick

    Steve, thanks for getting this issue in front of folks!

  • yeah_yeah_no

    So how is this fair to all of the other thousands of people who “didn’t know” about their tax bills and now have property on the auction. Delinquent water bills are no longer water bills when they roll over to the tax bill. Yep, stinky indeed. I know someone who didn’t know that his property is on the auction and they didn’t let him pay all the taxes due because they say it’s too late I’m going to tell him about this case so he can go down there and raise HELL!

  • nolimitdetroiter

    The property was in foreclosure due to delinquent water bills? That’s a new one. I thought it was a tax forfeiture auction.
    In other words, anyone who had a property foreclosed upon and auctioned off can now complain and regain ownership. I know from past auction experience that nothing kills a sale like having the seller refuse to sell an item in a no reserve sale. My neighbor’s house accrued $17,000 in back taxes, WC put it up in the 2013 sale and it sold for $52,000. He’s foolish not to file suit saying he was not notified properly.
    I expect this group of “professionals” to approach the high bidder and the under bidders and offer up the property for…..say, $175,000.
    This whole deal stinks to high heaven. It’s beyond unethical. Oh, this is WC we’re talking about.

    • Tommy Desmond

      Water bills are municipal assessments. If you go too long without paying them, they roll the water bill and any fees onto your tax bill, so it becomes a tax issue.