1871 – 1897

A Venerable Heritage:
The Three Founding Hospitals


  • FOUNDING HOSPITAL: The Central Dispensary Hospital, the oldest of the three founding members of Washington Hospital Center, opens in the District's Columbian Medical College Building at 10th and E Streets, NW, to treat the city's indigent. Two druggists donate $147 worth of drugs and the city antes up $278 in financial support. By 1880, an emergency department is added and the name changes to the Central Dispensary and Emergency Hospital, often shortened to simply Emergency. By 1928, the original two-room hospital expands to fill nine stories and 280 beds.


  • FOUNDING HOSPITAL: The Garfield Memorial Hospital is founded to memorialize assassinated U.S. President James A. Garfield (1831-1881). Outfitted with the most modern equipment, Garfield quickly becomes a leader in surgery and X-ray treatment of cancer, as well as the care of those stricken by malaria and typhoid fever.
  • The Garfield School of Nursing is established under the direction of Sophia Palmer. Later, it becomes MedStar Washington Hospital Center's School of Nursing. In 1982, after 98 years of continuous operation, the school will close.


  • FOUNDING HOSPITAL: Episcopal Ear, Eye and Throat Hospital opens its doors at 17th and L Streets, NW, in the District of Columbia. In its first year of operation, the 15-bed specialty hospital treats more than 1,200 patients and performs 220 surgeries.

In 1958, a trio of hospitals in the District of Columbia merged to create the largest private hospital in the nation's capital: Washington Hospital Center. All three medical facilities boasted roots reaching back to the previous century when Washington, D.C., was little more than a sleepy Southern town with fewer than 200,000 residents.

Today, MedStar Washington Hospital Center is an internationally renowned clinical, teaching and research facility that serves a metropolitan area of more than 5 million people and attracts patients and physicians from around the globe.