|View of the Old Naval Hospital from along Pennsylvania Avenue SW. (Photo by author)|
Temporary Home for Union Ex-Soldiers and Sailors
In 1922, the Department of the Navy agreed to lease the empty hospital building, which was on the verge of demolition, to the Temporary Home for Old Soldiers and Sailors. This institution, which was run by the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and initially catered only to Union Civil War veterans, provided temporary shelter for former servicemen when they came to Washington seeking pensions and other service related claims. To be eligible to stay at the home, a veteran had to have been honorably discharged, not ill or an alcoholic, and possessing less than $50. Veterans could stay in the home for up to ten days, but this rule was leniently enforced. Congress later expanded the home's mandate to include veterans of the Spanish-American War and the World Wars.
The hospital remained a veterans home until 1963. The Federal Government transferred the building to the D.C. government shortly thereafter. Over the next few decades, the building was used for a variety of purposes including as the home of the D.C. Center for Youth Services in the 1980s and 90s.
In 2000, local residents formed the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital to champion the preservation of the historic structure. After decades of physical neglect, a 2010-11 $10 million restoration has preserved this Capital Hill landmark and provided a local community center-- the Hill Center-- for "learning, meeting, entertainment, celebration, and conversation." The "green" restoration design even incorporated a modern, geothermal HVAC system.
Historic Medical Sites in the Washington, DC Area , U.S. National Library of Medicine, NIH.
Streitmatter, Roger, The Old Naval Hospital-- A Capital Hill Treasure, online.
The Old Naval Hospital, Historic Structure Report, R. McGhee & Associates, June 1994.