Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Henry Ford Hospital

When an effort to establish a new city hospital by the Detroit General Hospital Association stalled from lack of funding, Henry Ford, who had purchased land for the new hospital, paid back the original benefactors and took over, building and paying for the new hospital himself. Henry Ford Hospital was opened on West Grand Boulevard at Hamilton Avenue in October 1915 with room for 48 patients.

Ford personally selected the physicians, using Johns Hopkins Hospital as one source, implementing a closed group practice where salaried employees worked solely for the hospital, the first closed staff system in the country. Launched as a non-profit, the Ford family paid deficits incurred in the early years to keep the hospital operating. Philosophically, Henry Ford Hospital placed a strong emphasis on outpatient treatment, and stressed the importance of preventative care to help avoid chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

By 1917 a new building was underway to house more patients, but construction was halted in 1918 for employees to serve in World War I. The unfinished building was lent to the Army to serve as a hospital for returning wounded and sick soldiers and became U.S. Army General Hospital No.36. The building was finally finished in 1921, raising the hospital’s capacity to 500 beds. The expanded hospital campus facilitated the foundation of the Henry Ford School of Nursing and Hygiene in 1925. The residential facility for the student nurses was named the Clara Ford Nurses Home, after Henry Ford’s wife. It is now the Clara Ford Pavilion.

The hospital’s closed-practice system allowed for extensive research and interdisciplinary cooperation, leading to the establishment of the Edsel B. Ford Institute for Medical Research in 1947, renamed in 1968 the Edsel B. Ford Institute for Education and Research. Detroit’s massive growth during this period again required physical expansion, and the 17-story Clinic Building was finished in 1955 with funding from the Ford Foundation.

In 1975, Henry Ford Hospital developed two satellite hospitals in suburban West Bloomfield and Dearborn, and over the next 10 years added five more. These additions prompted incorporation of the hospital system as the Henry Ford Care Corporation in 1983, which became the Henry Ford Health System in 1990. Also in 1990, the medical school and research department were consolidated to create the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center.

Today, the Henry Ford Health System maintains 30 medical centers, including the original Henry Ford Hospital. This extensive system, in a 2018 ranking, represented the eighth largest employer in the state, and is responsible for over three million outpatient visits every year.

The Henry Ford Hospital main campus on Grand Boulevard was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 2013.



Henry Ford Hospital aerial view postcard, 1960s - 2000.029.010a

Henry Ford Hospital entrance, 1950s - 2012.044.952

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