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St. Elizabeths Hospital

Washington, District of Columbia
County of District of Columbia.
National Register Number: 79003101
Resource type: District.
Property type: Health Care - hospital. The threat level was Threatened in
2006.
Certified Local Government: NO

Statement of Significance (as of designation - December 14, 1990):
St. Elizabeths Hospital, founded in 1852, began operations in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, one of the nation’s earliest asylums to offer moral treatment and enlightened human care to persons with mental illness. The first medical superintendent was Charles H. Nichols (1820-1889), who collaborated with the social reformer Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) to establish a model institution in the capital city. For more than a century, St. Elizabeths was internationally recognized as a leading clinical and training institution. During the Civil War, the property was also used to house wounded soldiers. A reluctance of the soldiers to write home stating that they were recuperating at the Government Hospital for the Insane gave rise to the use of the name St. Elizabeths, the historic name of the old royal land grant of which the campus was a part. Thereafter, the institution was informally referred to as St. Elizabeths for decades until the name was formally changed by Congress in 1916.

Condition:
Proposed use of site for a Homeland Securty campus. The historic building fabric of the East Campus, under District of Columbia control, also suffers from severe deterioration and neglect. The SHPO is working with other branches of the District government to include historic preservation as a component of any future plans for this portion of the property. The entire St. Elizabeth's complex was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Eleven Most Endangered" List in 2002.

The future of the site is currenlty under Section 106 Review of the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act. GSA continues to move forward with plans to radically change the character of the West Campus of the hospital grounds with build out options for the U.S. Coast Guard and Homeland Security. The resulting project would require demolition of historic buildings. Further, the existing historic building fabric suffers from deterioration and neglect.

Recommendation/Change since last report:
Funded plans for both the East and West Campuses that include serious historic preservation elements will go a long way towards minimizing and/or eliminating the threat to this long neglected NHL.


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