Thursday, March 23, 2017


In 2013 I was hired by the U.S. General Services Administration to write a history of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. I spent about eight months doing research, mainly at the National Archives, and another six months writing.

Originally opened in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, St. Elizabeths (no apostrophe) served the "insane" of the Army, Navy, and indigent residents of the District of Columbia and was the first federal mental facility in the United States.




For much of it's history St. Elizabeths was as the forefront of mental health care in the United States. From March 25, 2017 to January 15, 2018, the National Building Museum is mounting an exhibition: Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017.





I consulted on the exhibit, but I haven't seen the finished product yet.



Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Dogs of St. Elizabeths



Being a dog lover, it was fun to come across dogs in some of the old photos.


Most likely the superintendent's suite in the Center Building.

Also, probably the Superintendent's suite in the Center Building.

This is a supervisor's office in the then newly constructed B Building in 1905.


Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Atkins Hall





Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.



Friday, July 19, 2013

Patient room


Patient room in the Poplar Ward in the Center Building circa 1905.
This would have been for a non-violent/destructive male patient, and probably one who was not poor.



Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Preserve Room

 
Much of the food consumed at St. Elizabeths came from the hospital farm.
This is a picture of the Preserve Room circa 1898.


Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.



Monday, June 17, 2013

Hydrotherapy at St. Elizabeths


Male  patient undergoing hydrotherapy circa 1902. In addition to the multi-headed shower, the attendant would spray the patient with a water hose that was attached to the control panel console in the foreground.
 

Female patient undergoing hydrotherapy at St. Elizabeths Hospital circa 1902.

Click here to see more pictures
and for a full history of
St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.



Friday, May 31, 2013

The St. Elizabeths Story




For much of its history, St. Elizabeths was as much village as it was hospital. Sitting on a hill overlooking Washington, DC, it was home to patients and staff for over 150 years. Opened in 1855, the hospital was the first federal facility for the mentally ill and was often at the forefront of the field of psychiatry. Hundreds of boxes of archived documents, photos, and plans tell the story of this hospital where staff lived among patients, patients helped maintain the hospital farm, and the hospital farm kept them both fed. Now that history comes to life in this full-length history of St. Elizabeths Hospital.

You can read the history here. (15MB pdf file)