Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
Much has been written over the past two years about the first responders who have performed so admirably and nobly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors and nurses caring for so many Americans as people suffered, and in too many cases, succumbed to the virus. There are more than 8,000 references to “hospitals” in the National Register Records (National Archives Identifier 20812721).
If you are a Civil War buff, you can start your tour of medical facilities at the Virginia SP Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park (National Archives Identifier 41680849). In Fredericksburg, in the sprawling boundaries of the National Military Park, contains the Chatham building, “across the river from Fredericksburg, possesses both architectural and historical significance. The building is an excellent example of the Georgian style. It was employed as headquarters by numerous Union generals. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, artillery posted nearby fired on the city. An early field telegraph was utilized here at the same time. Following the fighting a hospital was established on the property by, among others, Clara Barton.”
You can read about the Puerto Rico MPS Antiguo Hospital Militar Espanol de Ponce (National Archives Identifier 131518286), seen above in use during World War I, which “served the military community stationed in Ponce and in the southern region – and could be used by the civilian population in case of emergencies and natural disasters, thus solving a social necessity in the southern part of the Island. In 1905 the property was given to the state government to be used as an asylum for the blind. It gave shelter to the many poor blind in the south. Here they taught skills that could help them support themselves in the future. In other instances those who could not be rehabilitated were given a home and free meals thus keeping them from the streets where they could be in danger. The social functions carried out in this building continued until the mid 1970’s when the structure was closed.”
One of the first public hospitals in the American colonies, was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Conceived by Dr. Thomas Bond, an eminent Philadelphia physician of the 18th century, and authorized by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1751, the Pennsylvania Hospital entered its present housing at Eighth and Spruce Streets in 1756, and is today the earliest established public
hospital in the United States. Although Philadelphia General Hospital (1732) and Bellevue Hospital in New York (1736) are older, the Philadelphia General was founded as an almshouse, and Bellevue as a workhouse. The exteriors of the three original buildings of the 18th century have been little changed since their construction. The interiors however have been largely adapted to contemporary needs. Nevertheless, Ward One in the East Wing (the first building) has always been a ward, and retains some of its original flavor. In the central building, the oldest operating amphitheater in the country is being restored.”
In the open lands of North Dakota, sits the Turtle Mountain Agency Hospital, located within the property file of North Dakota MPS Federal Relief Construction in North Dakota, 1931-1943 (National Archives Identifier 75326275). “Over hundreds of years, a few Native American population groups had developed workable strategies for living sustainably in the area that is, today. North Dakota. With penetration of two transcontinental railways in the latter half of the 19th century, other cultural groups were attracted to establish a presence on the remote northern Plains. In academic terms, historical evidence abounds in describing the difficulty these latecomers had, and the adjustments they necessarily made. In the eyes of immigrants from most European origins, the North Dakota settlement landscape was fairly regarded as austere and challenging.” The Turtle Mountain Hospital was built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), “Though only a small number of CCC-ID projects were undertaken in North Dakota, the CCC-ID federal relief program represented an important new federal relationship to Native American populations. In North Dakota there were three CCC-ID “agencies” (the equivalent to companies elsewhere), performing work. They relate primarily to the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation near Belcourt, irrigation projects in the Yellowstone River watershed near the Montana border west of Williston (part of the Trenton-Buford irrigation project), and an unrealized “seed project” exploring the potential of pressure-molded clay blocks that anticipated WPA funding of as many as 600 reservation homes.”
You can visit the old San Diego Naval Hospital on the grounds of the California SP San Diego Veterans’ War Memorial Building–Balboa Park (National Archives Identifier 123860980), as Eleanor Roosevelt did during World War II. “San Diego’s Veterans’ War Memorial Building was one of the earliest conceived by an American city during World War II. However, the concept was based on a nation-wide “Living Monument Movement” that originated during the latter stages of World War II. Promoted by veterans organizations, the idea called for municipalities to build “living memorials” to perpetuate the memory of local servicemen and women who had served or been killed in the war. The result caused a revolution in the spirit of architectural expression and land use planning.
In Montana, you may come across the Montana SP Rosebud County Deaconess Hospital (National Archives Identifier 71976560), “Erected in 1920-1921, the Rosebud County Deaconess Hospital, the first hospital in the County, provided the eastern territory of Montana with a medical facility for which it was in great need. With its 21 beds and surgery room, the service provided was well worth the tax increase created by the $90,000.00 construction cost. The two story structure, with a daylight basement, has seen few changes in its appearance both externally and internally since its formal dedication on April 21, 1921.”
“Hospitals were constructed in Glendive, Montana and Miles City, Montana prior to 1920. Forsyth, Montana, the county seat of Rosebud County and location of the Rosebud County Deaconess Hospital is forty miles from Miles City. For the available modes of transportation in the early 1900’s, forty miles meant a minimum of one full day’s travel over rough Montana terrain. Even in 1979 a trip of that distance and time means the difference of life and death. It is easy to comprehend the relief of Rosebud County settlers when they began to plan through the Methodist Church, a medical facility that would aid them in dealing with day-to-day emergencies.”
The site containing Walter Reed Hospital, located in Maryland, is on the National Register of Historic Places on the grounds of the National Park Seminary Historic District (National Archives Identifier 106777846). “National Park Seminary is located south of the Capital Beltway, east of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks, and north and west of Linden Lane, in Forest Glen, Maryland. It is part of the Walter Reed Army Hospital and is used as a convalescent center and living quarters for army personnel. The Seminary grounds include either side of a steep, wooded
ravine in which are located approximately twenty buildings of varying size and architectural quality. The largest structure, which is also the oldest, was originally named Forest Glen Inn (1890). It is a two-story stucco building on a stone foundation, trimmed in wood in a vaguely half-timber style. At various points the roof has been raised to add a full third story. A one-story veranda runs along the north facade and a three-story pedimented pavilion juts out from the facade at the entrance. There is a band of stained glass over the entrance which says “Ye Forest Inn.” After the Inn proved a financial disaster, it was converted into the main building of National Park Seminary (1894).”
If in the event you are in need of hospital care, be sure to seek out the best care you can get, of course, but if you look around you may get some history during your hospital stay as well. Be safe, stay well.
This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.