The City of Detroit has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant to expand the historic district of the Dr. Ossian Sweet home and preserve two more adjacent houses that will preserve the famous site in perpetuity, and memorialize an authentic Detroit civil rights story.
In 1925, Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African American physician, purchased the house at 2905 Garland Avenue in a segregated white neighborhood on Detroit’s east side. On September 9, a violent mob gathered, there to drive the Sweet family out of the neighborhood. Dr. Sweet decided to stand his ground; rocks were thrown; shots were fired in defense and one man in the mob died.
Dr. Sweet and others in the home at the time were arrested and charged with murder. The NAACP hired renowned attorney Clarence Darrow to represent Dr. Sweet; the case resulted in acquittal, bringing international attention to US housing discrimination.
The City of Detroit was awarded the maximum grant amount from the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, and Department of the Interior. The effort is among 51 winning projects in 24 states that will preserve sites and highlight stories related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century.
“As Detroit continues to move forward, we cannot forget where we’ve been,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Preserving the Dr. Sweet home and expanding the historic district will give us a chance to reflect on the struggles many African American families have faced and celebrate champions like Dr. Sweet and others, who stood up for what is right.”
The grant will pay for the cost of preserving and interpreting a space in the Sweet house that will be open to the public for scheduled visits, and rehabilitating two additional properties across Garland Street, where the violent mob gathered and where the shooting occurred. The City is also in the process of expanding the district to include those properties at 2912 and 2918 Garland to cover the broader anti-integration movement and the events at the Ossian Sweet House as it relates to the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Sweet home is privately owned, and only 2905 Garland is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.