History of Medicine
Oldest building at St. Elizabeth's Hospital
Established in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, St. Elizabeths Hospital has had a distinguished history in the treatment of the mentally ill. The Hospital's early mission, as defined by its founder, the leading mental health reformer Dorothea Dix, was to provide the "most humane care and enlightened curative treatment of the insane of the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia." During the Civil War, wounded soldiers treated here were reluctant to admit that they were in an insane asylum, and said they were at St. Elizabeths, the colonial name of the land where the Hospital is located. Congress officially changed the Hospital's name to St. Elizabeths in 1916. By the 1940s, the Hospital complex covering an area of over 300 acres housed 7,000 patients. It was the first and only federal mental facility with a national scope.
In 1987, the federal government transferred the hospital operations to the DC Department of Mental Health, while retaining ownership of the western campus. The original 1850s building has been designated a National Historic Landmark, but it is not in use because of its state of disrepair. On the grounds of St. Elizabeths, there is also a Civil War cemetery where 300 Union and Confederate soldiers who died here are buried. The Hospital complex is located on a hill in southeast Washington, overlooking the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. However, it is closed to the public. In 2005, the Hospital celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding and honored members of the Armed Forces who became mentally ill while serving their country.
See: #4 on Area Map.
No nearby Metro Station.