The west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, a National Historic Landmark, covers more than 176 acres on a high plateau in southeast Washington, overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Considered to be the preeminent panoramic view of the capital city and northern Virginia, (from “The Point”) the site was chosen for its bucolic setting by Dorothea Dix and the first Superintendent Charles H. Nichols.
The west campus consists of 61 buildings, the oldest and most magnificent of these being the Center Building, built in 1852 and designed by Thomas U. Walter, then Architect of the Capitol. Specimen trees gathered from around the world over a century ago and planted to enhance the treatment of the patients grace the grounds.
The site is well known and prominent in the mental health field. St. Elizabeths was the first large-scale government-run insane asylum, the result of Dorothea Dix’s persistent lobbying of Congress. The entire campus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990, and placed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites in 2005.
In a widely publicized and locally controversial move, the Department of Homeland Security has successfully mounted a campaign to turn the campus into a new consolidated DHS headquarters. Construction on the first phase has already commenced.
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City worked with numerous other local organizations and participated in the Section 106 process. Our position has been consistently against the extent of the proposed development with huge surface parking lots, calling the plans too dense for the National Historic Landmark, its scale too large for the extremely visible plateau on which it rests, and will forever remove the historic setting from the public domain and create an isolated yet congested campus in the middle of a residential area.
- C100 Letter Witherell St Elizabeths West Campus Plan
- June 28, 2016, Charles Robertson
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City would like to take this opportunity to express its concurrence with comments made by several consulting parties at the June 7th and June 21st Section 106 meetings concerning the lack of landscape or walking path elements in the proposed West Addition designs.
- 2006-04-16 Takeover St Elizabeths
- April 16, 2006, Washington Post