Historic Detroit

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Newberry Hall Apartments

Across the street from where old Grace Hospital stood remains the former Helen Newberry Nurses Home, designed by Nettleton & Kahn and built in 1898 on the southwest corner of Willis and John R streets.

It is the lone survivor of Detroit’s early hospital district in Midtown. The funds to erect the building were provided by Helen Handy Newberry, widow of Detroit business tycoon John S. Newberry, who had helped former U.S. Sen. James McMillan fund Grace Hospital’s construction. Helen Handy Newberry dedicated much of her life to working with the sick and "troubled." Among her other good works, she worked with the Thompson Home for Old People, the Home for the Friendless - which later became the Children's Aid Society - and the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church.

The building enabled nurses to live directly opposite the hospital in order to have a short commute to work. There are three floors, plus a basement and an attic. The building is made of paving brick with trimmings of buff limestone quarried in Bedford, Ind. The main entrance opened into a spacious reception hall with a beamed ceiling, wide window seats and a fireplace. The home was finished in dark oak. A wide staircase led to the apartments upstairs.

Originally, on the north side of the first floor, was a reception parlor, library and drawing room; the south featured apartments not only for nurses but also the principal and the matron, as well as linen rooms and bathrooms. The second floor held the assistant principal's apartment, 14 apartments for nurses - two women per room. On the southwest corner of each floor were bathrooms. The attic was home to six rooms for male nurses, who had a private stairway leading from the rear entrance - in order to keep the male residents separate from the female ones. The basement was home to the dining room, kitchen, bicycle room, luggage room and a gymnasium with showers. In its southwest corner, the basement had a room for the disinfection of nurses working with Grace Hospital's contagious patients.

In 1930, a new, larger nurses home -- which shared a namesake with the old -- was built. The 300-room The Helen Handy Newberry Memorial Nurses Home was built at 201 E. Alexandrine. The new building was erected thanks to a $450,000 gift from Helen Newberry Joy, John S. Newberry and former U.S. Sen. Truman H. Newberry in honor of their mother, Helen Handy Newberry, who passed away in 1912. The siblings announced May 12, 1929, that they were making the gift in her memory to a $3 million associated buildings campaign for Grace Hospital, the Salvation Army and the Narcotic Educational Association.

The campaign also set out to build Grace a new medical and surgical unit at Brush and East Willis streets; a west side hospital with 100 beds to replace Grace's Miriam Memorial branch on West Grand Boulevard; a supplementary women's hospital with 50 maternity beds; a new 10-story citadel to be erected by the Salvation Army at Second and Michigan with a 200-room boarding home for young women; as well as a children's hospital. Beyond expanding Grace's capacity to 225 beds, it was to help the hospital "launch a revolutionary experiment looking to a diminution of hospital rates," the Free Press wrote May 12, 1929.

Work began on the new nurses home in March 1930, and its cost was pegged at about $600,000. Upon its opening, the old Newberry Nurses Home was used to house clerical and domestic female employees. After that, it was used as office space before being left vacant.

Surprisingly, even though the Helen Handy Newberry Memorial Nurses Home took over for the older structure, the older nurses home would long outlast its replacement. The memorial was demolished in 1980 for a parking garage for the hospital system. The original nurses home was rehabbed and reopened as the Newberry Hall Apartments in 2011.

Last updated 06/05/2022