History, The District

A Look at Saint Elizabeths West Campus

‘Saint Elizabeths – Central Building – 05-21-11′
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

About two weeks ago, I got the chance to go on a DC Preservation League tour of Saint Elizabeths West Campus. It was the second time I’d been able to go on the tour, the first time being in December of 2008. I was looking forward to seeing how things had changed in two and a half years.

But first, a note on this post: it’s going to be fairly bare bones on information. That’s because there is literally 150+ years of history in this location! Sorting through it all and writing a truly thorough post would be the length of a small book. There is a huge amount of research on the property because of the Department of Homeland Security moving onto the historic West Campus, and a lot of effort is being made to preserve as much as possible. I encourage you to dig deeper by reading the GSA’s website on the redevelopment, along with a short but detailed history of St. Es, and their extremely detailed Historic Landscape Survey. Also, we’ve talked about St. Es before, and it is worth rereading Tiffany’s article. And, of course, there’s Wikipedia.

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Crime & Punishment, The District, The Features, WTF?!

Learning About St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

Photo courtesy of
‘St Elisabeth’s Hospital – Autopsy is also a spectator sport’
courtesy of ‘spiggycat’

While poking around through the We Love DC Flickr pool this morning, I ran across spiggycat’s set of photos from a recent tour of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Anacostia. Since that was the second time in the space of a week someone mentioned touring St. Elizabeth’s, and since I know pretty much nothing about it, AND since my day job is into its 2nd straight day of technical issues that are preventing me from accomplishing anything, it seemed like a good time for self-education-by-Google.

St. Elizabeth’s was founded in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, headed by Dorthea Dix, and intended to care for patients from the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia. But the Civil War soldiers in treatment there didn’t like telling people they were in a hospital for the insane, so they referred to it by the old colonial name of the land the hospital sat on, St. Elizabeth’s. It wasn’t until 1916 that Congress got with the program and renamed the hospital officially. Continue reading