Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End of an Era


I was going to unreview another book today, but nobody really cared about the one I didn't review yesterday, so I'm going to blather on about something else. Namely the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

I've been listening to a feature on NPR this week about the closing of the U.S. Army's most famous hospital. They've been covering it all week long so far on Morning Edition, and they've had some interesting angles to discuss.

Most of us probably remember Walter Reed (the facility, not the man) for the 2007 Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect scandal, but the hospital has had a long and storied history, being the country's leading military hospital for over 100 years, sitting on a campus that includes a Civil War battlefield, and helping countless soldiers and their families recover from the wounds of war.

General and former president Dwight D. Eisenhower was treated and died there. So did generals "Black Jack" Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall.

Here's a glimpse of what the hospital looked like in 1919:


But now that it's closing, there is some debate as to what to do with the property. More than half, about 70 acres, of the facility will transfer to the District of Columbia, and the rest will revert to the State Department. There's been no announcement as far as any official plans for the grounds, but D.C. residents have plenty of ideas.

There's talk of student housing, or affordable public family housing. Others want parks, or retail space. I can't imagine anything being done to the iconic buildings, but with the government in charge I suppose you never know.

There will be some interesting developments to come. For example, for the last hundred years, the property has been federal land, and therefore un-taxable. If it reverts to the city, and especially if it becomes some kind of commercial space, there are estimates that it could generate 20 million dollars a year in tax revenue.

Anyway, I've never served in the military, but some of my ancestors and relatives have, and I'll be curious to find out what ends up happening with this famous hospital.

37 comments:

Bryan Russell said...

It's kind of sad, sometimes, when tax revenue is more important than history.

aspiring_x said...

hey! we read (or to be honest skimmed) your review yesterday. ghost medicine. :P

Carolyn Abiad said...

Hopefully the building can be repurposed, as it still looks in decent shape. (Good thing DC has a penchant for history. Bet they keep part of it open as a gallery/museum too. They need venues for galas. ;))

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

What Bryan said. :(

Jules said...

Funny how time can make all things expendable, even icons.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Slamdunk said...

It has quite a history, and will be worth watching.

As for the taxing issue, I am confident that no matter how much revenue is generated by our various governments, more money will be consistently spent than they have available.

Em-Musing said...

Well, I Googled, and it looks like the conditions there were horrible, roaches, black mold, questionable care and abhorrent behavior on the grounds...well, I think patients would be better served at another facility.

Michael G-G said...

Interesting story.

Hey, I cared about your review!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I heard about this too on NPR. And drove by it on vacation in Washington. Hope they find a use for it.

mshatch said...

yes, I've been listening to that story, too. I also enjoyed your review - or unreview - of Andrew Smith's book, which I will be asking my library to get for me. I loved The Marbury Lense.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I was once a student of urban planning. I can tell you that the grounds do not need to become a park, but perhaps cheap housing with a park-like setting. pfft.

Carolyn V said...

It makes me a little sad that they are letting it go. It will be interesting to hear what will happen.

Barbara Kloss said...

Hey, thanks for sharing this! Very interesting. I hope they find good use for it and are able to preserve the history. But as you said, you never know.

ps i like how you said "unreview" :D

Donna K. Weaver said...

It's sad to see something so historic go the way of the world. I remember when I got to my training at Ft. Gordon and had to do some physical therapy the old, old WWII hospital was about to be dismantled as the new, modern hospital had been completed.

Talli Roland said...

That is sad. It looks like a beautiful building.

Michael Offutt said...

Pretty building but every place in the country is underwater. You are either part of the people that make nothing and get paid pennies for your life's labor or are part of the rich nobility who sit on the backs of their yachts and say that they shouldn't pay more taxes. My guess is that with money being so tight, tax revenue will indeed be the tipping point on the decision.

Jessica Bell said...

First time I've come to your blog and not known what to say ... But I read it. LOL. Military, old hospital, Eisenhower died in it ... um .. what? You never served in the military. Does that make you less of a man? ;o) (hehehe)

Anita said...

If those walls could talk.

Copyboy said...

Yeah that's a tough debate. I think retail would be a bad move. A starbucks? A Denny's? Spencers? You realize I could go all day with this.

Christina Lee said...

Well color me uniformed--didn't know, so thanks for this!!

Hart Johnson said...

I would hope with at least some portion of the facility they would create some sort of historical acknowledgment... a small museum or something. I think it may also be short sighted to close it--there are more people surviving wars than at any time in history and many of them are coming home with mental health issues or chronic pain conditions. I don't pretend to understand the decision making behind health care policy in this country, but I KNOW these are conditions regular family physicians are not ideally trained to address (especially those in a lot of the tiny towns these men and women return home to)--facilities that specialize really are needed.

Elana Johnson said...

I love old things. LOVE THEM. Especially buildings, and I wish they'd simply be brought up to code with electronics and stuff like that, and then left alone.

Janet Johnson said...

How did I not hear this? I live 20 minutes from the place. Yikes! Well now I'll be listing to see what happens. Why does government control make me nervous?

Emily White said...

I just hope someone does something with it. Being from an area where abandoned historical buildings is pretty much the norm, I know how heartbreaking that can be.

Sarah Pearson said...

I tried to guess what kind of building that was before I started reading. I got it wrong, but it's beautiful.

And I cared :-)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i hope they don't ruin the buildings, because they're so awesome.
The horror writer in me wonders if there are ghosts in its halls.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I hope they preserve at least a part of it as a historical site. It wouldn't surprise me if they do. I'd hate the idea of it being torn down. :(

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You know they'll change something!
And I commented on your review yesterday.

M Pax said...

Wow, that's kind of sad. I used to live in DC and know Walter Reed pretty well. My husband was in the military. I'll have to ask him what he thinks about it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sorry, I missed your review...
I wonder if they can have it declared a historical site? Then it can't be torn down.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

This actually makes me sad. I was in the Army... I've never had very good experiences with their hospitals. Poor treatment. Lousy attitudes. But Walter Reed is an important part of Army history. I'm sad to see it close.

Also, I enjoyed your tips at Spunk On A Stick.

Old Kitty said...

Oh but I did care about your review yesterday!!! :-)

So did!!

And I came here thinking Capn Alex will be here but no - y'all somewhere else Spunky! LOL!!! Anyhoo! I get so easily confused!

p.s. sorry about the closure of this fine historical hospital. I hope the integrity of the buildings are kept. Don't you have "listed" status there for buildings? I work in a 1930's art deco building that's "listed" and no-one or nothing may touch, change, mark, paint etc to the building without lots of permissions and forms and legal loops to jump over, etc. Saves the building and its history.

Take care
x

Lynda R Young said...

I hope, with what ever they end up doing to the builds, that they keep the look of the place and preserve the history.

maine character said...

It's definitely the end of an era. And I pray that someday ALL hospitals will be turned into student housing just 'cause we don't need them anymore.

Lydia K said...

Some of my buddies have trained there. I've worked in VAs all my medical life, so it's sad to see it go.

Melodie said...

I heard that story in NPR too. The place has a fascinating history, esp. the story of Walter Reed. So many people responded with their own experiences. Thanks for posting the photos - it's always cool to see how places change.

LTM said...

ooo--that was on yesterday when I was driving to the BMV to get my new DL, and I just had to switch it off. Couldn't have all puffy eyes for my picture! LOL~

There's a place here, Fort Benjamin Harrison--and it's all these old officers' qtrs, etc. We considered buying one b/c they're MASSIVE brick structures. But they need a lot of restoration, and we're not very good at do-it-yourselfing. Still, gorgeous places... <3