Constructed in 1886, the Dining Hall benefited the social lives of patients at Saint Elizabeths. It allowed for as many as 600 patients to convene for meals. This was far different than dining in the Center Building, where patients took meals to their rooms or ate in smaller dining spaces. Patients were able to sit together to share meals, which encouraged them to interact with one another and helped establish a sense of normalcy. Being able to socialize in a setting such as a main dining hall was not always possible for patients in the Center building. There were some dining rooms in the main building, but patients mostly ate their meals by themselves in their rooms.
Once a year, around Easter, the hospital would organize a ball for their patients and local companies would donate money and supplies for the event. Events like this annual ball set Saint Elizabeths apart from other institutions and provided patients more opportunities for socialization that they would not have gotten at most other facilities. The construction of the Dining Hall also helped the hospital convert the dining rooms in the Center Building into additional rooms for potential patients, resulting in the hospital accepting more patients.
The Dining Hall is a brick building with many side and clerestory windows, which provide a lot of natural light and improved ventilation for those using it. It is a one-story structure that includes a basement, and an important feature in its design was to have it be able to be used by hundreds of patients at once. As mentioned previously, it was also designed to be able to host larger events that many patients could attend, such as the annual ball or larger holiday meals.
The Dining Hall will continue to be a place for DHS employees to dine and meet with one another during the work day.