The history of Eloise
It all started when the Wayne County Poor House was founded in 1832. It was located at Gratiot and Mt. Elliott Avenues in Hamtramck Township two miles from the Detroit city limits. By 1834 the poorhouse was in bad condition and 280 acres (110 ha) in Nankin Township were purchased. The Black Horse Tavern which served as a stagecoach stop between Detroit and Chicago was located on the property. In those days it was a two-day stagecoach ride from Hamtramck Township to Nankin Township. The register shows that on April 11, 1839 35 people were transferred from the poorhouse in Hamtramck Township to the new one in Nankin Township. 111 apparently refused to go to the “awful wilderness.” Many were children and homes among the residents of the city may have been found for them. The log cabin which was formerly the Black Horse Tavern became the keeper’s quarters and in 1838-9 a frame building was put up to house the inmates. A frame cookhouse was erected in the back of the log building and was used for cooking for both inmates and the keeper’s family.
The complex was almost self-sufficient. It had its own police and fire department, railroad and trolley stations, bakery, amusement hall, laundries, and a powerhouse. It also had many farm buildings including a dairy herd and dairy barns, a piggery, a root cellar, aTobacco curing building, and employee housing.
Eloise was one of the first if not the first hospital to use x-rays for diagnosis performed by Dr.Albarran. Patients came from Detroit and other communities to have x-rays done. It also housed the first kidney dialysis unit in the State of Michigan and pioneered in the field of Music Therapy.
As the years went on the institution grew larger and larger, a reflection in the increases in the population of the Detroit area. From only 35 residents in 1839 the complex grew to about 10,000 residents at its peak during the Great Depression and then started to decrease. The farm operations ceased in 1958 and some of the large psychiatric buildings were vacated in 1973. The psychiatric division started closing in 1977 when the State of Michigan took over the psychiatric division. The general hospital closed in 1984.
Inventor Elijah McCoy may be its most famous former resident. He spent a year prior to his death as a patient in the Eloise Infirmary. There were other well-known people who died at Eloise including several baseball players. Among them are Jul Kustus (died April 27, 1916), Larry LeJeune (died April 21, 1952), Charlie Krause (died March 30, 1948) and Marty Kavanagh (died 1960) Musician Horace Flinders was also a patient, and received music therapy.