Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Grace Hospital

Grace Hospital opened Dec. 7, 1888, and was located on Willis and John R streets.

Though it treated thousands of people over nearly 100 years, Grace is best known for one patient in particular. Harry Houdini, the most famous magician to ever live, died of sepsis caused by acute appendicitis in Room 401 of Grace Hospital on Oct. 31, 1926 -- Halloween. He was staying at the Statler Hotel for his performance at the Garrick Theatre. All three of these Detroit buildings with ties to Houdini's final moments have been demolished. The William R. Hamilton Funeral Home on Cass Avenue, where his body was taken, is the only remaining link to the master magician.

The hospital was named for Grace McMillan Jarvis, the daughter of James McMillan, one of Detroit’s early powerbrokers during its industrial and economic surge. McMillan was a Republican U.S. senator; co-founded the Union Trust Co., which built the city’s landmark Guardian Building; president of the Detroit Dry Dock Co., which built steamships; and ran the Detroit & Cleveland Steam Navigation Co.

Grace Hospital started with 75 beds but could accommodate 100 patients, yet with the city growing, at times it found itself overcrowded, with more than 150. A 1910 addition was designed by Edward G. Stevens of New York City, with the supervising architects being Malcolmson & Higginbotham of Detroit.

The hospital would continue to grow and tack on additions, including several in the '50s and '60s. By 1964, Grace was the second largest nonprofit hospital in the state.

In 1979, deemed outdated and obsolete, the original Grace Hospital building was demolished for a parking lot.

In 1985, Grace merged with other hospitals to form the Detroit Medical Center.