James W. Ames – Park 23


James W. Ames was born October 12, 1864 in Louisiana – the son of Walter Ames and Clarissa Washington.  He was educated at Straight College and received his medical degree from Howard University in 1894.  Ames began a medical practice; later he would turn into a community problem solver. ames pk

Ames is honored with a triangular island park bordered by McGraw, Milford Street, and Vinewood Street in Detroit.  The park amenities are older; however the signage and most of the fencing are still intact.


Well respected, James Ames was considered to be among the medical elite in early Detroit.  In 1918, he and 30 other black physicians purchased a three story home from Jewish diamond merchant named Charles Warren on Frederick Street in Detroit.   They renovated the structure and opened a 37 bed, non-profit hospital aiding the black population of Detroit – an unserved demographic.  At this time it was extremely difficult for blacks to get quality medical care and hospitalization.

Paul Dunbar Hospital
Paul Dunbar Hospital located on Frederick Street near Peck Park in Midtown.

The funding for Paul Dunbar Memorial Hospital came from the group’s personal pocket books, a few Detroit philanthropists, and the congregants from St. Matthew Episcopal Church.  Ames became the Medical Director.

Paul Dunbar Memorial Hospital was successful and continued on to offer medical training for nurses.  In the late 1920’s it moved to a larger facility near Brush and Illinois St. and was renamed Parkside Hospital.  Ames was extremely active in the Detroit community.  He served as the director of the Phyllis Wheatley Home for Indigent Colored Women; as a Michigan State Legislator in 1901-1902; on the Detroit Board of Health 1901-1915; and on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors for many years.  He was an exalted ruler in Elks Club.

James Ames died on January 31, 1944.  He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.

He rests next to his son Chester, who became a prominent Detroit surgeon.
He rests next to his son Chester, who became a prominent Detroit surgeon.

© Andrea Gallucci, 2013.  All rights reserved.