Three years into the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln petitioned Congress to build DC’s first Naval hospital. Built by July 1866, the Old Naval Hospital provided medical services to American veterans in the US Navy. The hospital served sick and wounded seamen until 1906, when the facility moved to a new building on Twenty-Third and E Streets NW, known as the “New Naval Hospital.”
From 1907 to 1911, the Old Naval Hospital functioned as the Hospital Corps Training School, where sailors learned nursing and hygiene. In 1911, the hospital transformed into a care facility for veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American wars, an emergency hospital, and a temporary Naval Reserve headquarters, at one point. By 1922, the Old Naval Hospital found a new purpose as the Temporary Home for Union Ex-Soldiers, a private institution providing lodging for veterans fighting pension claims in court.
In 1963, the federal government transferred the control of the Old Naval Hospital to DC. The building served as a meeting place for several social service organizations, including the headquarters for the organizing efforts to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday. Over time, the facility fell into disrepair and by 1998, the building was vacant.
By 2000, a group of concerned neighbors formed the Friends of the Old Naval Hospital to restore the historic site, research the site’s history and multiple uses, and find a long-term occupant for the building representative of the community’s needs. Hill Center now occupies the building, an educational center and gathering place for community residents dedicated to cultural enrichment, education, and civic engagement.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964
National Register: May 3, 1974; amended May 20, 2009
Within Capitol Hill Historic District