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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Barry Farm in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Curative Powers of Nature

An East-of-the-River View

 

—Anacostia Heritage Trail —

 
The Curative Powers of Nature Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
1. The Curative Powers of Nature Marker
Inscription. The Fence and wall ahead of you, on either side of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, enclose historic St. Elizabeths Hospital. The pioneering facility opened in 1855 to treat mentally ill members of the armed forces and DC residents. At a time when the mentally ill were ignored or locked away, the prominent Bostonian social reformer Dorothea Lynde Dix persuaded Congress to fund the nation's first public institution to provide them with treatment.

President Millard Fillmore appointed Dr. Charles H. Nichols to head the new Government Hospital for the Insane. Together Nichols and Dix chose this beautiful spot away from the city because they believed in the curative powers of nature.

During the Civil War (1861-1865) the hospital treated ill and injured soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who preferred to call it "St. Elizabeths," an old name for the property. Congress made the change permanent in 1916. The East Campus, across the avenue, was added in 1869, when the government bought Shepherd Farm to raise food for staff and patients. For nearly a century, the hospital was practically self-sufficient.

St. Elizabeths' patient population peaked at close to 8,000 in the 1940s. After World War II, many patients went to new veterans' hospitals or received treatment in residential settings. The DC government
The Curative Powers of Nature Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
2. The Curative Powers of Nature Marker
provided mental health services on the the West Campus from 1987 until 2004. Redevelopment began in 2011.

Old maps show many names for this street. Originally Bladensburg-Piscataway Road, it became known as Asylum Road once the hospital opened. In 1872 it was renamed Nichols Avenue for the hospital's first superintendent. A century later it became Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to honor the slain civil rights leader.
 
Erected by Anacostia Heritage Trail. (Marker Number 5.)
 
Location. 38° 51.417′ N, 76° 59.758′ W. Marker is in Barry Farm, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on Martin Luther King Jr Avenue Southeast, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2651 Martin Luther King Jr Avenue Southeast, Washington DC 20020, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hillsdale (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Elizabeths Hospital (about 600 feet away); Campbell African Methodist Episcopal Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Faith and Action (approx. 0.3 miles away); A Navy Town (approx. 0.4 miles away); Barry Farm - Hillsdale
Dorothea Dix image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress
3. Dorothea Dix
Dorothea Lynde Dix moved to Washington to advocate for humane care of the mentally ill.
(approx. 0.4 miles away); Birney School (approx. 0.4 miles away); Nichols Avenue Elementary School/Old Birney School Site (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Barry Farm.
 
Categories. Science & Medicine
 
Dr, Charles Henry Nichols image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress
4. Dr, Charles Henry Nichols
Dr. Charles Henry Nichols, first superintendent of St. Elizabeths Hospital and namesake of Nichols Avenue., later Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
Daily Censvs image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
5. Daily Censvs
St. Elizabeths Hospital once displayed its patient count on this ornate signboard.
Close-up of photo on marker
Pint-size Locomotive image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
6. Pint-size Locomotive
George T. Luckett, left, and fireman C.B. McClure operated a pint-size locomotive that ran to and from the B&O Railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill.
Close-up of photo on marker
Weaving image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
7. Weaving
Hospital workers demonstrate weaving as prescribed for patients during World War II.
Close-up of photo on marker
Dred Scott image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 28, 2016
8. Dred Scott
A patient in art therapy produced this portrait of Dred Scott for the Bicentennial Mural Series, 1976.
Close-up of image on marker
The Center Building image. Click for full size.
Library of Congress - HABS
9. The Center Building
The Elegant Center Building was designed for the West Campus by Thomas U. Walter, architect of the Capitol.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 23, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 31, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 177 times since then and 176 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on December 31, 2016, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   7, 8, 9. submitted on January 7, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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