The history of the U.S. Marine Hospital dates back 218 years. In 1798, President Adams established the Marine Hospital Service to care for injured and disabled seaman working on the Mississippi River, a precursor to the Public Health Service.
The Marine Hospital campus was built in 1884 to care for injured Civil War soldiers and also to conduct scientific research in the hopes of finding a cure for yellow fever. Located along the Mississippi River, south of downtown Memphis in the French Fort community. The original campus consisted of six buildings: the stable, two wards, the surgeon’s house, executive building, and nurses’ quarters.
During the 1930s, several Works Progress Administration buildings were built on the campus. To make room for the new WPA hospital the executive building and the nurses’ quarters were moved 300 feet by wagons pulled by mules to their current location.
The wards and stables were demolished. The executive building was repurposed as a museum in 1979 and added to the National Register of Historic Places the following year.
In 1937, the new, 3-story Neo-Classical red brick hospital was built at a cost of $1 million. Constructed in Georgian-style, the building featured a slate roof, limestone columns, and a copper copula.
Each hospital wing consists of a day room, patient rooms and nurses station. In the rear wing you will find the operating room, a dental ward, and the soundproof chamber used for hearing tests. The morgue was located in the basement.
Throughout the years the hospital was used by the Coast Guard, cadets from the state maritime academies, active duty armed forces, Public Health officials, the Army Corps of Engineers, and government employees injured in the line of duty. Most recently by the Army during Desert Storm to house soldiers.
The hospital closed for good in 1965 as the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital. The property was split between the museum and the Federal Government.
The museum was allowed to lease their half from the City of Memphis for only a $1 a year. The Federal Government retained their portion until 2004 when it was sold to a private buyer. The campus remains private property and is currently in the works to be redeveloped into 67 apartments.