History of Medicine
The Oldest Building on the Historic St. Elizabeths Campus
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 covered an area of over 300 acres and 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. 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. In April 2010, the Hospital moved into a new 450,000 square foot facility on Alabama Avenue in SE Washington DC.
See: #4 on Area Map.
No nearby Metro Station.
The Hospital complex is located on a hill in southeast Washington, overlooking the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The original 1850s building has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The campus is now site of the US Coast Guard National Headquarters including the Historian’s Office. Access to the site is restricted. The campus retains many of its historic features including: a Civil War cemetery where 300 Union and Confederate soldiers who died there are buried.