(Government Hospital for the Insane)(St Elizabeths Hospital)

1100 Alabama Avenue SE

(202) 299-5100

Status: Former Insane Asylum, Behavioral Health Complex, DHS Office, Coast Guard Headquarters, Being Repurposed



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By U.S. Coast Guard (according to <a rel="nofollow" class="external autonumber" href="">[1]</a>) - <a rel="nofollow" class="external free" href=""></a>, Public Domain, Link


On a side note, Dr Walter Freeman - who pioneered the frontal lobotomy - was once employed here in charge of the morgue. He began his experiments on dead human brains here.

In August 1852 the US Congress released $100,000 for the creation of a hospital for US Armed Forces and the civilians in the District of Columbia for treatment of brain illnesses. Famed advocate for the mentally ill Dorothy Dix - who was friends with the President Filmore – got the Secretary of the Interior to help find a suitable location to build a Kirkbride style asylum.

Construction was begun in 1853 with the East and West wings built before the Center section that tied the 2 wings together. In January, 1855 patients began to be admitted and 2 more buildings – one for male patients and one for female patients – were built to house the African-American population. Segregation was alive and well in 19th century America.

The hospital was officially named Government Hospital for the Insane. Initially – and due to the Civil War - most of the hospital was used as a General Hospital for recovering soldiers and sailors. The name St Elizabeth was used by the Army to separate its facilities from the Psychiatric Hospital.

From the Civil War to the First World War the Army part of the facility took to using the St Elizabeths Hospital although the apostrophe was always left out.

In 1940 ownership of the full institution was transferred to the Federal Security Agency as a US Public Service Hospital. By the 1950’s the hospital was running at its maximum level with over 8,000 patients and 4,000 staff.

With the advent of designer meds and the 1963 Community Mental Health Act society began to move toward outpatient clinics and group homes; the end of the giant asylum era. In 1967 ownership was passed to the National Institute of Mental Health and the population of the hospital began to decrease dramatically.

The 1980’s brought further decreases in patient populations and the entire East Wing was closed for hospital operations. Even the West Wing was operating at a very diminished capacity.

Today a new hospital East Campus holds the remaining psychiatric patients; about half being civil patients and the other half being forensic (criminally insane). The East Wing has been repurposed into mixed use rentals and a sports arena.

The West Campus – home to the Center Building – was completely reconstructed keeping the original façade and become the home to the Dept of Homeland Security including the Coast Guard.

In April 2020 DHS moved to its operations to the Emergency Operations Center in Mount Weather due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This facility is partially abandoned now but also a functioning psychiatric hospital as well as goverment offices.


Paranormal Activity

Apparitions of former patients and staff – some of which have interacted with the living.

Disembodied voices, phantom footsteps and other unexplained noises including groans, laughter, screams and loud bangs.

Poltergeist activity including objects moving around, objects being thrown at people and doors opening and closing on their own.

Temperature fluctuations, light anomalies, mysterious mists, feelings of unease, being watched, not being alone and not being wanted.