St. Elizabeths Hospital

2700 Martin Luther King Jr., Ave., SE., Washington, District of Columbia



Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey



St. Elizabeths Hospital, founded in 1852, began operations in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane, one of the nation's earliest asylums to offer moral treatment and enlightened human care to persons with mental illness. The first medical superintendent was Charles H. Nichols (1820-1889), who collaborated with the social reformer Dorothea Dix (1802-1887) to establish a model institution in the capital city. For more than a century, St. Elizabeths was internationally recognized as a leading clinical and training institution. During the Civil War, the property was also used to house wounded soldiers. A reluctance of the soldiers to write home stating that they were recuperating at the Government Hospital for the Insane gave rise to the use of the name St. Elizabeths, the historic name of the old royal land grant of which the campus was a part. Thereafter, the institution was informally referred to as St. Elizabeths for decades until the name was formally changed by Congress in 1916. -- National Historic Landmark statement of significance, December 14, 1990

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 1979
Reference number
Architectural style
Victorian: Gothic
Areas of significance
Architecture; Health/Medicine; Social History
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
B - Person; A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Hospital; Cemetery
Current function
Periods of significance
1850-1874; 1875-1899; 1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1852; 1878; 1902
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 128

Update Log 

  • May 12, 2012: Imported photos from HABS/HAER