The Columbia Hospital for Women, originally opened in 1866 as a healthcare facility for wives and widows of Civil War soldiers, was the city's birthplace of choice for all races for a century and a half. The hospital was the primary maternity facility in the city and the birthplace of about 275,000 individuals—the vast majority of all persons born in the District of Columbia during the 20th century. Until its closure in 2002, Columbia was also a leading national and international innovator in women and infant health.
Columbia's position as a prominent hospital for childbirth led to many milestones over the years of its existence. In 1919, it established a prenatal care program, and in 1925, it became the first hospital to use babies’ footprints for identification. It was one of the first maternity hospitals to establish nurseries for premature infants, and the first to provide classes for expectant fathers. It was also a leader in the care of children, with its Clinic for Children giving rise to Children’s Hospital.
Columbia Hospital was first located at Thomas Circle, but in 1876 it moved to the present site, where it used the former Maynard Mansion as a nurses’ home. The present five-story structure, built in 1916, overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue. The Italianate design by architect Nathan C. Wyeth is extraordinary for its sculptural complexity, with a design that highlights the importance of light and air in medical thinking of the day.
DC Inventory: December 18, 2002