From Government Hospital for the Insane to revitalizing a community

By |
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

St. Elizabeths Hospital was opened in 1855 after fierce lobbying for funding from mental health reformer Dorothea Dix.

First called the Government Hospital for the Insane, the 350-acre campus perched on a hill in Southeast Washington has seen its fair share of changes.

• 1860s: Informally given name of St. Elizabeths (the Colonial name of the land where the hospital is located) during the Civil War by recuperating soldiers who did not want to write to their families that they were at an insane asylum.

• 1881-1882: President Garfield's assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, housed at hospital during his trial and leading up to his execution.

• 1902: First buildings opened on east campus.

• 1916: Name officially changed to St. Elizabeths Hospital.

• Early 20th century: Important therapeutic techniques pioneered at St. Elizabeths, including Dr. Carl Jung's work on race and mental health.

• 1940s: At peak, served more that 7,000 patients and grew to more than 130 buildings.

• 1950s and on: Hospital's population began to decline as institutionalization became unpopular and mental health advocates favored community health rehabilitation. Reports of mistreatment and experimentation also hurt hospital's reputation.

• 1982: John Hinckley, the man who attempted to assassinate President Reagan, was committed.

• 1987: Federal government transfers hospital operations to the D.C. Department of Mental Health, while retaining ownership of the west campus.

• 2003: Last patients moved out of west campus.

• 2004: Control of west campus transferred to U.S. General Services Administration.

• 2007: Department of Homeland Security announced planned consolidation and move to hospital's west campus.

• 2009: Groundbreaking for west campus redevelopment. U.S. Coast Guard headquarters scheduled to open in 2013.

• 2010: D.C. opened new St. Elizabeths Hospital building on east campus.

• 2012: D.C. named developer for temporary food/retail pavilion on east campus, slated to open in 2013.

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Author:

Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner