U.S. Marine Hospital

The Train and Loading the Boat, Mural Study, Louisville, Kentucky Marine Hospital. (From the Smithsonian American Art Museum)


U. S. Marine Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky, 1930. (From the Caufield & Shook Collection, University of Louisville)

In 1837, the United States Congress authorized the construction of seven hospitals that would treat seamen and boatmen who became ill and/or injured. A stipulation for the building of these hospitals was that they had to have a view of water. By the first of January in 1852, the United States Marine Hospital in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky began accepting its first patients. Famed architect Mr. Robert Mills, designed the Louisville Marine Hospital. Funding for these hospitals was appropriated, in part, by a 20-cent tax for every steamboat man. Essentially, 20 cents was taken from the paychecks of the men to pay for their healthcare. During the Civil War, the hospital remained largely closed though it did take care of Union sailors from battles at Shiloh and Perryville, amongst others, early on. In the late 1860s, the Sisters of Mercy took over operations of the hospital until it was reorganized in the mid-1870s. By the turn of the 20th century into the 1920s, the majority of patients at the hospital were veterans of the First World War. The hospital remained serving the boatmen of the area but expanded to care for others from the U.S. Coast Guard and various other Federal employees.

(From the Caufield & Shook Collection, University of Louisville)

The “original” hospital operated until 1935 when President Herbert Hoover made appropriations to build a new facility in 1935. The former hospital was converted into housing for medical staff. The “new” hospital was built at a cost of about $400,000. By the middle of the 20th century, the city of Louisville purchased the property and used it as office space until the 1970s. It has since remained unused. In 1997, however, the United States Marine Hospital was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the last remaining antebellum Marine Hospitals.

Contributed by Shawn Logan & Jay Gravatte | contact@kyhi.org

⁘ Works Cited ⁘

  1. The Lexington Leader, 9 December 1949
  2. The Lexington Leader, 12 December 1952
  1. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 30 November 1947, p. 46.
  2. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 8 June 2003, pp. 1, 14.
  3. Henrik Martin Mayer, The Train and Loading the Boat (mural study, Louisville, Kentucky Marine Hospital), 1936, oil on canvas mounted on composition board, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the General Services Administration, 1974.28.32
  4. “Louisville’s U.S. Marine Hospital.” U.S. Marine Hospital. http://www.marinehospital.org/pdfs/HistoricTimeline.pdf
  5. ULPA CS 037159 1, Caufield & Shook Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
  6. ULPA 1994.18.0743, Caufield & Shook Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

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