The Way It Was — Trumbull General Hospital, 1967

The medical center opened in the 1940s and was one of several area hospitals that cared for Black patients then
Trumbull General Hospital photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News)

1967 Ideally, hospitals should be devoted to care and compassion, regardless of one’s station in life or one’s race or ethnicity. But history tells a different story. It’s one of blatant bias, which existed not only in the South, but in the North as well — Detroit included.

For years, Black patients were often denied care, or even if they were admitted, didn’t receive adequate attention. Wards were sometimes segregated. Black doctors and nurses were routinely denied posts at major hospitals, and according to Robert Saxon Jr.’s blog titled “Jim Crow Hospitals,” Black doctors were required to consult with white doctors before admitting patients and were not allowed to perform surgery.

Such inequality led to the formation of Black-owned or -operated hospitals. In 1918, a group of Black doctors joined forces and opened Dunbar Memorial Hospital on Frederick Street in Midtown; the building still stands today.

In his 2017 book Black Detroit, Herb Boyd mentions that Mercy Hospital in Black Bottom opened the preceding year. Later, Black patients’ need for care was fulfilled by several other hospitals, including Trumbull General Hospital (pictured), which opened in the 1940s and closed in 1974 after merging with three other hospitals to form Southwest Detroit Hospital.

The imposing, Second Empire-style structure at 3966 Trumbull, in Detroit’s Woodbridge district, was built as a single-dwelling home in the late 19th century, when Trumbull was lined with stately abodes belonging to many of the city’s wealthiest citizens, including Detroit News founder and publisher James E. Scripps.

In 2011, the old Trumbull General Hospital was converted to apartments. Skateboarder Tony Hawk bought the building in 2016, but it was sold again in 2019.

This story was originally featured in the February 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine, and was shared again in our 2023 Health Guide. Read more in our digital edition. Plus, find even more The Way It Was articles at