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Architecture

General Hospital No. 7 and the Blinded Veterans of the Great War in Baltimore

The former General Hospital No. 7, or “Evergreen,” is now part of Loyola University Maryland. Photograph by Evan P. Sullivan

The former General Hospital No. 7, or “Evergreen,” is now part of Loyola University Maryland.
Photograph by Evan P. Sullivan

Many of the hundreds of students who pass through the Humanities Building at Loyola University Maryland each year may not know the true significance of the halls through which they are walking. Indeed, one may not realize that almost exactly one hundred years ago the officials of the U.S. Army War Department were making necessary adjustments to the then Garrett Estate in anticipation of receiving the first American veterans blinded in service in France. It is difficult to visualize, among the built environment of a modern university campus, that the grounds of North Charles Street in the suburban neighborhood in Baltimore was part of a massive military medical rehabilitation program. The Maryland Historical Society holds but few of the remaining visual records of General Hospital No. 7 rehabilitation hospital for blinded servicemen, providing an important history of wartime Baltimore.

Historians of war and disability have recently explored the development of the medical establishment at the turn of the century. In his chapter in Stephen Ortiz’s edited volume Veterans’ Policies, Veterans’ Politics, historian John Kinder proposes the term “architecture of injury” as the built environment of medical facilities during and after war. He argues, “Spatial arrangements play an important role in the construction of ‘disability’ as both a group identity and social experience.”(1) During the First World War, the United States War Department constructed a vast architecture of injury through the forty General Hospitals that served wounded and disabled veterans. Historians of medicine and war have recently referred to this within the framework of the “medicalization of war.”(2) Many of the hospitals built during mobilization and de-mobilizaton were general disembarking hospitals where medical staff addressed the needs of wounds, sickness, and disablement. Some hospitals were constructed as specialty hospitals like General Hospital No. 8 in Otisville, New York for tuberculosis veterans. General Hospital No. 7 in Baltimore fits within the larger architecture of injury following the war, and it’s memory should be preserved and reflected upon with the one-hundredth anniversary of American involvement.

General Hospital No. 7 is significant within the history of Maryland during World War I. A recent article in The Baltimore Sun, highlights the important histories of Camps Laurel and Meade’s impact on Laurel, Maryland through the new exhibit at the Laurel Museum. Patti Restivo writes that Camp Laurel was a segway point for thousands of soldiers on their way to Europe.(3) Restivo’s article makes clear the important fact that many residents of Laurel knew little about the largely buried local history of the Great War.

Mrs. T. H. Garrett loaned Evergreen Jr. to the government to use as a facility to help veterans who were blinded during their military missions. Evergreen Jr., ca 1920, Hughes Company, Evergreen - Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.2, MdHS

Mrs. T. H. Garrett loaned Evergreen Jr. to the government to use as a facility to help veterans who were blinded during their military missions.
Evergreen Jr., ca 1920, Hughes Company, Evergreen – Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.2, MdHS

“Uncovering” the local history of Baltimore’s Great War past is as important for Maryland residents as the stories brought to the surface in Laurel. Baltimore can rightfully claim to be a city with one of the largest contributions to the war effort. Not only was General Hospital No. 7 a service and rehabilitation hospital for blinded veterans returning home, but military authorities converted Fort McHenry into General Hospital No. 2, serving thousands of wounded and disabled veterans after the war. In fact, General Hospital No. 7 and Fort McHenry shared a cooperative connection in their implementation of rehabilitative strategies after the war. While more residents may know McHenry’s story, far fewer will recognize the significance of the Garrett Estate.

PP148.42  Model for poultry farm, made of cardboard. Hughes Company, c.1920. 9.5 x 7.5 inch photo print Evergreen - Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection Special Collections Department

Model for poultry farm, made of cardboard, ca 1920, Hughes Company
Evergreen – Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.42, MdHS

To recognize fully the magnitude and importance of General Hospital No. 7, or what residents called Evergreen Institute for the Blind, it is important to understand it’s development, structure, and interaction with the city. The estate was organized on November 27, 1917, and underwent significant construction through spring 1918 and into 1919. The original layout of the estate had 50 acres of land with three main buildings: Evergreen House, Evergreen Junior, and the Wilson Home. To accommodate the needs of rehabilitation, the War Department built the estate to encompass two school buildings, two training buildings, a recreation building, a physical recreation building, five barracks, and utility structures. Additionally, a set of buildings called “Kernwood” was built for administrative offices. The capacity of the hospital grew from fifty to three hundred.(4)

The major additions to the property included space for the many rehabilitation departments. To accommodate the educational department, army officials built a full swimming pool, bowling lanes, and a large gymnasium where the school held events and dances, often bringing in members of the community to participate. The school expanded outdoors as well, adding an agricultural department and incorporating poultry raising, a small herd of cows, and bee keeping. The commercial department included a newly established small store, allowing soldiers to practice store management and salesmanship.(5) Aside from these major additions, much of the main building remains similar to what it looks like today. A photograph of blinded veterans enjoying the reading room will reveal the familiar wood paneling of the present day building.

PP148.4  Evergreen Jr., reception hall, with people sitting. Hughes Company, c.1920. 9.5 x 7.5 inch photo print Evergreen - Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection Special Collections Department

Evergreen Jr., reception hall, with people sitting, ca 1920, Hughes Company
Evergreen – Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.4, MdHS

The many additions to the property highlight the different features of government services for disabled veterans. By the time America’s veterans returned from war in between 1918 and 1919 the United States had begun implementing a vast program of rehabilitation. The goal was their social and economic reintegration into society. Disabled veterans were expected to overcome their injuries through vocational education, socialization, and physical fitness. Only by returning to their expected roles as masculine, physically fit and capable breadwinners would the process of rehabilitation be complete.

Perhaps one of the most interesting additions to the property highlights part of this equation. As stated above, one of the additions of the property addressed the needs of the school’s Agricultural Department. Officials trained students in chicken raising and “dairying,” which included a herd of six cows. Indeed, this can be understood within the context of a larger, transnational, scheme of resettling veterans in the postwar era on plots of farmland and rehabilitate them through agricultural work.

PP148.57  First store opened by two graduates of the Institute. Hughes Company, c.1920. 9.5 x 7.5 inch photo print Evergreen - Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection Special Collections Department

First store opened by two graduates of the Institute, ca 1920, Hughes Company
Evergreen – Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.57, MdHS

Another prominent department provided as an option to rehabilitating blinded veterans at Evergreen was the Commercial Department. Students were furnished with a fully functioning store, called the Victory Store, where they could manage and sell candy, tobacco, newspapers, and other articles. The Maryland Historical Society collection holds fascinating photographs not only of the store built on campus, but also of subsequent stores that graduates opened after leaving; proof of the success of the rehabilitation process for some. Societal expectations, along with the structures of the welfare state, of the male breadwinner influenced heavily the rehabilitation process’s emphasis on returning the veteran to the workplace.

Physical fitness was equally important to the rehabilitation process. Veterans at Evergreen, much like their counterparts at other General Hospital facilities, engaged in various recreational activities. To accommodate this need, veterans had available to them, among others, a bowling alley and a swimming pool.

PP148.63  Swimming pool. Hughes Company, c.1920. 9.5 x 7.5 inch photo print Evergreen - Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection Special Collections Department Verso: “Bowling. The location of the tennis is explained to the blind bowler, and one more means of recreation made possible.”

The Physical Education Department included swimming, bowling, and a full field day with physical activities.
Swimming pool, ca 1920, Hughes Company
Evergreen – Red Cross Institute for the Blind Photograph Collection, PP148.63, MdHS

The newly established school, by no means isolated, was very much connected to the city of Baltimore. General Hospital No. 7 ordered food and provisions from local companies like Jacob C. Shafer packing company and Independent Beef Company, both located in Baltimore.(6)  The hospital also utilized local contractors to help with the many projects that expanded the property. Additionally, blinded veterans who wished to take part in the music program at Evergreen played instruments furnished through the then Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Henry E. Mozealous, a graduate of the Perkins Institute for the Blind and New England Conservatory of Music was an instructor of music at Evergreen and formed a music group with a group of blinded veterans.

PP148.61  Men playing musical instruments (Orchestra). 1919. Photograph by the Hughes Company 9.5 x 7.25 inches Evergreen-Red Cross Institute for the Blind Collection Special Collections Verso reads: "These two young men have become sufficiently proficient in music to join the Musicians' Union. (PP148.62)"

Men playing musical instruments (Orchestra), 1919, Hughes Company
Evergreen-Red Cross Institute for the Blind Collection, PP148.61, MdHS

General Pershing visited the Institute and addressed students and staff of the Institute (Evergreen Red Cross Institute for the Blind, PP148.48)

General Pershing visited the Institute and addressed students and staff of the Institute
Evergreen Red Cross Institute for the Blind Collection, PP148.48, MdHS

In addition to being closely connected with the community of Baltimore, Evergreen welcomed some well-known figures. At various times visitors included Helen Keller, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces General Pershing, the Queen of Belgium, and the directors of the institutes for blinded veterans in both Belgium and Britain.

It is crucial to continually uncover and recognize the local aspects of such global wars like the First World War. General Hospital No. 7’s photographs are but a small, yet important, part of both the history of America’s rehabilitation program during World War I, and the lived individual experiences of our veterans. Many former institutes like General Hospital No. 7 remain known only to specialists and archivists who hold the records of their former existence. To illuminate their past within the wider public is to recognize the predecessors of today’s military and medical establishment and allow us to appreciate fully both the for-bearers of what we know as the modern welfare state and the contributions of local communities to the wider war effort. General Hospital No. 7, along with the many other establishments that dot the United States in a largely unknown manner, should be recognized fully of its significance.

(Evan P. Sullivan)

Evan Sullivan is a doctoral candidate at the University of Albany, SUNY. His research focuses on the intersections between war, disability, and gender. Evan was an MdHS Lord Baltimore Fellow in 2016.

Wounded soldier, George Calvert, was accompanied by Helen Keller, Polly Thompson, Anne Sullivan Macy, Col. Bordley, and Charles Campbell for a walk on the Evergreen campus (Evergreen Red Cross Institute for the Blind, PP148.46)

Wounded soldier, George Calvert, was accompanied by Helen Keller, Polly Thompson, Anne Sullivan Macy, Col. Bordley, and Charles Campbell for a walk on the Evergreen campus.
Evergreen Red Cross Institute for the Blind Collection, PP148.46, MDHS

Sources and further reading: 

(1) John M. Kinder, “Architecture of Injury: Disabled Veterans, Federal Policy, and the Built Environment in the Early Twentieth Century,” p. 66, in Stephen Ortiz, ed. Veterans’ Policies, Veterans’ Politics: New Perspectives on Veterans in the Modern United States (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012)

(2) Heather R. Perry, Recycling the Disabled: Army, Medicine, and Modernity in WWI Germany (New York: Manchester University Press, 2014) 75.

(3) Patti Restivo, “Rediscovering World War I in Laurel” The Baltimore Sun, February 6, 2017, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/laurel/ph-ll-laurel-museum-wwi-0209-20170206-story.html.

(4) “General Hospital No. 7, Baltimore, MD.” Military Hospitals in the United States, 511-512, http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/MilitaryHospitalsintheUS/chapter25.htm.

(5) Major N.I. Ardan, “Report of the Activities of Medical Service in this Hospital,” March 6, 1919, National Archives, College Park, MD.

(6) “Statement of the Hospital Fund at U.S. Army General Hospital No. 7,” November, 1918, National Archives, College Park, MD.

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