Spurred on by the growth of the large River Rouge Ford plant and other industrial factories, the Downriver suburbs of Detroit like Trenton, Wyandote, Ecorse and Riverview grew from small towns into bustling cities. For many years though, communities lacked a proper hospital, with patients having to go north to Detroit for treatment.
In 1943, the family of Austin Church, a prominent businessman in Trenton donated their mansion to a group of doctors to establish the first hospital in Trenton. The house, a sprawling three-story colonial revival was situated on three acres of gardens along the Detroit River. Renovation of the house into a suitable hospital was finished in 1944 at a cost of $100,000. Riverside Osteopathic Hospital, as it was named, was part of the Detroit Osteopathic Hospital network.
On the occasion of its opening on July 8th, 1944, The Trenton Times noted that the hospital was equipped with "42 beds and bassinets and has established departments of surgery, emergency and general; obstetrics for delivery, pre-and post-natal care; a nursery with latest type incubators and oxygen equipment; orthopedics; eye, ear, nose and throat; general osteopathic medicine; clinical laboratories; anesthesia; and radiolog with the latest design shock-proof equipment… It will be staffed by osteopathic physicians and surgeons of the Down-River area but will be open to all reputable physicians and surgeons who comply with its standards and requirements, officials stated."
An open house was held the weekend of the 24th, allowing residents to inspect the new facility and the waterfront gardens.
Over the years the hospital grew, with new wings added in 1954, 1955, and 1976. The additional wings surround the original house, which later became the hospital administration building. A prolonged strike by hospital workers in 1990 damaged the finances of the hospital’s parent company, which was already struggling with decreased demand and high per-patient costs.
In 1995, Riverside Osteopathic was sold to the Henry Ford Health System as part of a buyout of the hospital’s parent company, Horizon Health. Though the merger led to an increase in patients in 1997, the financial situation deteriorated as cuts were made to Medicare funding and the aging hospital buildings required more maintenance. A plan to merger Riverside with another hospital nearby was scuttled in 2002. Instead, Henry Ford Health converted Riverside into an outpatient surgery and diagnostic center, moving the hospital services to one of its other facilities. But Riverside failed to attract patient referrals, and the hospital shut down on November 15th, 2002. 500 employees were laid off.
For 11 years the hospital remained in limbo, as medical providers and property developers looked at ways to reopen the facility. The buildings sold twice in 2009, eventually ending up in the hands of Dr. Iqbal Nassir, a local physician. His plans to convert the hospital into mixed-use medical facility have yet to come to fruition, and facing fines over the condition of the hospital, demolished the original hospital building and the power plant in July of 2013.
By February of 2014, plans for redevelopment of the hospital were moving forward, as DTE and began planning for the installation of new electrical lines, but no visible work has been done since the partial demolition. In January of 2015, residents of Trenton petitioned the city to demolish the building, citing the safety hazard and trespassers it attracted. The brownfield redevelopment agreement with the city was revoked in February, and the city’s Dangerous Building Board ordered that if plans and valid construction permits were not filed by April, the city would demolish the rest of the hospital. After the deadline passed, another agreement was made where the owner would install new fences, exterior lighting, security cameras, and alarm systems.
At the time of this article, the hospital remains vacant, under close watch by neighbors and law enforcement. Arrests for trespassing and scrapping happen on an almost weekly basis.