We’ve all driven by Specialty Hospital on Massachusetts Avenue NE, between 7th and 8th Streets. You may even have had reason to visit one of the many long-term patients that it now takes care of. It has not always been restricted to this sort of care, and, in fact, for the longest time, there was a full hospital on this site, known as Eastern Dispensary and Casualty Hospital.
Casualty Hospital was founded in 1888 at B and 3rd Streets SE as the Eastern Dispensary. In spite of the name, it was a fully-staffed hospital, with physicians of all specialties on call. It was founded to take care solely of those unable to pay for their treatment, using money provided by the government.
By 1900, the work done at the Dispensary had advanced to the point where there was need for an entirely new building to take care of the patients. By then, the words “and Casualty Hospital” had been added to the end of the name. A site on Delaware Avenue was chosen and by 1901, the new building was being used. However, even as they settled in, the building was condemned to make way for the new Senate office building, and a new site on Massachusetts Avenue NE was eyed. The neighbors rose up in protest, insisting that the “presence of [the] institution would destroy peace and quiet of vicinity” as the headline of a Washington Post article of July 10, 1904, stated. The article further stated that the residents wrote that building the hospital would “greatly depreciate the value of the property.”
The Commissioners of DC however decided that they had no say in the matter, and so the hospital bought the house of Benjamin Leighton, a prominent DC lawyer, at 708 Massachusetts Avenue NE. After adding 1-1/2 stories and erecting a new number of new buildings on the site, they were ready to move in on April 7, 1905.
Over the years, the hospital added further structures to its site, though lack of beds and lack of funds continued to dog the organization. In the late 50s, there was a push to modernize the hospital, and a large fundraising drive raised over 3.5 million dollars for a new addition. This was called the Rogers Memorial Addition, after Dr. Joseph Rogers, who had overseen the hospital in the 1920s.
On July 1, 1969, the whole hospital was renamed Rogers Memorial Hospital, after the Rogers family who had been involved in its operation for the last 50 years. Thereafter, the hospital was turned into MedLink Hospital and Nursing Center and, in 2005, it was bought by Specialty Hospitals of New Hampshire, who renamed it Specialty Hospital-Capitol Hill.
I’m one of only a few Capitol Hill residents that works at this hospital, and it’s a busy, quiet little place. If there are nurses living on Capitol Hill and looking for work, give it a try. I looove walking five minutes to work… and going home on my lunch break!
We used to live half a block from the Specialty Hospital, and it’s a local polling place. It was sad to walk by and inside some of the building and see it in such disrepair, especially the emergency wing on 8th Street.
I have the original wood signs that they used saying Eastern dispensary and Casualty hospital
I worked there from 1979-1986 and it was called Capitol Hill Hospital. A few years after I left, it was bought out by the Washington Hospital conglomerate who attempted to convert it to a nursing home, but they did not not have the appropriate paperwork(Certificate of Need). It then closed and lay empty until they sold a number of years later
That’s correct! I was wondering why they left that part out as a part of the hospital’s history. I too worked there as a nurse from ’79 to ’81 and that was the name (Capitol Hill Hospital) when I did my practical and when I worked there.
That top photo is from 1926, not 1936.
My great-grandmother worked as a nurse at Casualty Hospital back at the turn of the century and into the 1940’s. She used to bring home babies who were deemed beyond help and nurse them back to health. One of the babies she saved turned out to be the man that married my grandmother, her daughter. He was the only child out of five in his family who survived infancy. She used to bring home patients of all sorts to be cared for and saved. Her name was Pansy Amelia Diedrich. I have been trying to search records about the hospital history with only limited success.
As a native Washingtonian and former nurse, I worked there from 1979-1981. My maternal grandmother shared with me that the original hospital was segregated and cared for black people in the horse stables.