Gallinger Municipal Hospital Psychopathic Ward (ca.1920-ca.1990)

Gallinger Municipal Hospital Psychopathic Ward illustrates the local expansion of psychiatry beyond institutional walls.

Prior to 1900, the administration and distribution of humanitarian aid in DC was largely dependent on private philanthropic organizations who received federal aid to provide these services. The Progressive Era of the late nineteenth century saw legal demands for reform and organization, such as the DC Board of Charities (1900-1926); this board managed public funds for institutions and societies such as hospitals, workhouses, almshouses, and correctional facilities. The DC Board of Charities originally prepared plans for a hospital at 14th and Upshur Street NW, however the surrounding community protested the idea. By the 1920s after months of lobbying, the new municipal hospital was built in the southeast quadrant on Reservation 13, where the Washington Asylum and correctional facilities were already located. The hospital’s name honored New Hampshire Senator Jacob H. Gallinger (1837-1918), who helped secure congressional approval for the project. Built in the early 1920s in the Colonial Revival style, the Psychopathic Ward of the Gallinger Municipal Hospital demonstrated the modern development of public welfare and mental health programs in DC.

The Gallinger Municipal Hospital Psychopathic Ward further illustrated the local expansion of the modern practice of psychiatry beyond institutional walls, such as Saint Elizabeths Hospital. The emergence of psychopathic hospitals reflects national reform movements within the psychiatry field, away from stigmatized and often abusive asylums to new facilities with programs aimed to prevent mental illness and promote community care. The Psychopathic Ward administered short-term care for patients and acted as the psychiatric educational center for medical students of Georgetown and George Washington Universities. Although serious patient complaints concerning the building or care at the facility were rare, two malpractice investigations of the hospital occurred in 1929 and 1941. In 1953, the hospital was renamed the General Hospital of the District of Columbia, also known as DC General Hospital.

By the 1970s, the Psychopathic Ward became part of the Community Health Center under the Department of Health. Preservationists nominated the building to the National Register in 1989; yet, this national designation doesn't afford the same protection against demolition as local designation resulting in the building being razed in the 1990s. In 2001, DC General Hospital closed, ending inpatient services and transferring the city’s indigent health care system to the Greater Southeast Community Hospital. Today, Reservation 13 is the site of the DC Jail as well as the DC General Health Campus with a number of clinics for Women's Services, Detoxification Center, and Southeast Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic. However, since 2002, plans for the redevelopment of Reservation 13 continue to this day.

National Register: February 27, 1989



19th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE