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 nations 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.