The U.S. Marine Hospital dates back over 200 years. In 1798, President Adams established the Marine Hospital Service to care for injured and disabled seaman working on the Mississippi River. The hospital was a precursor to the Public Health Service. The campus was built in 1884 to care for wounded Civil War soldiers and also to conduct scientific research in the hopes of finding a cure for yellow fever. The Marine Hospital is 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, administrative building, and nurses’ quarters.
During the 1930s, several Works Progress Administration buildings were built. The administrative building and the nurses’ quarters were moved 300 feet by wagons pulled by mules to make room for the new WPA hospital. The wards and stables were eventually demolished. The administrative building was repurposed as a museum. In 1979, the Marine Hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places the following year.
In 1937, the new, three-story Neo-Classical red brick hospital was complete at the cost of $1 million. The hospital, constructed in Georgian-style, 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 is in the basement.
Throughout the years, the Marine 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 permanently 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. The current plan is to convert the hospital into 67 apartments.