Built in 1910, Hitchcock Hall was a place for patient entertainment, amusement, and creativity at Saint Elizabeths.
Hitchcock Hall was constructed in 1910 and used as a space for patient assembly and amusement. The hall included 1,200 seats for the hospital’s residents and hosted many forms of entertainment such as vaudeville performances, moving pictures, operas, musicals, dances, and lectures. Saint Elizabeths offered patients multiple recreational activities to help benefit their treatment, and the activities housed in Hitchcock Hall were a testament to that.
Hitchcock Hall also hosted a small chapel in its basement for patients, which the chaplaincy staff found inadequate, and often wrote to the administrative staff about. In addition to that, in 1941 the basement was also a space used for psychodrama. Psychodrama was a form of therapy which encouraged patients to role-play ways to deal with their feelings and how to cope in life beyond Saint Elizabeth's campus. During this time, Saint Elizabeths was only the second hospital in the country to practice this type of therapy (with the Beacon Hill Hospital in New York being the first). In 1955, to celebrate Saint Elizabeths centennial, patients and staff organized and performed a play titled "Cry for Humanity." This play was about Dorothea Dix and her important role in establishing Saint Elizabeths. It was also a significant performance because the public was invited to see it, and it included what daily life was like for patients at the hospital.
The flair of the Hitchcock Hall's exterior reflects the buildings purpose of being a place for patient entertainment, amusement, and creativity. The Hall is a brick structure with ornamental details on its facade, and a red brick roof. Its dramatic front entrance and terracotta decorations make it one of the more grand structures on the campus.
As the Department of Homeland Security moves onto Saint Elizabeths' campus, Hitchcock Hall will continue to serve its original purpose. The building will house a theater, and be a place of assembly for DHS employees.