Laying the Groundwork
"Dream Come True"
While volunteering at the city's hospitals during World War II, two young wives of U.S. Senators became disenchanted by the poor state of medical facilities in Washington, D.C. Appalled by the decrepit buildings and outmoded equipment, Eleanor Tydings and Elysabeth Barbour teamed up to push for creation of a new hospital worthy of the nation's capital. The pair enlisted the aid of Bessie Huidekoper, a prominent and influential friend with contacts in important circles. The determined trio brought together the right combination of powerful figures in the capital and successfully generated critical support for building a new, state-of-the-art in the District. For their role in inspiring the campaign to make the Hospital Center a reality, the three women earned the nickname the "Three Graces." (See 'Note' at page bottom)
- At the urging his wife Eleanor, U.S. Senator Millard E. Tydings (D-MD) introduces the Hospital Center Act, a bill authorizing $35 million to improve the city's voluntary hospitals. The "Three Graces" lobby tirelessly to secure passage. The bill sails through the Senate but becomes bogged down in the House for more than a year.
- The hospital campaign regains momentum when the Health and Hospital Survey, a group of medical and hospital professionals, releases a report decrying the "archaic" state of hospitals in Washington, D.C. Calling the existing hospitals "a disgrace to the Nation" and the "worst in any United States area of comparable importance," the Munger Report (named for survey chief Claude Munger, MD) urges immediate action to upgrade and update the District's medical facilities.
- On August 8, President Harry S. Truman signs the Hospital Center Act (Public Law 648), paving the way for creation of MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
- Twelve months after securing Truman's approval, MedStar Washington Hospital Center's board of directors formally establishes a corporation to review construction bids and award contracts.
- After a time-consuming search for a building site, the board secures the Ussah Dairy Farm, 47 acres tucked into the southwest corner of a large parcel owned by the federally run Old Soldiers' Home (now called the Armed Forces Retirement Home-Washington). Another potential site was the property occupied by the Vice President's House and the Naval Observatory on Observatory Circle, near Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
- On July 3, the three founding hospitals-Emergency, Garfield and Episcopal-sign a formal contract with the General Services Administration (GSA). Following a spirited debate about how best to merge their operations, the trio agrees to turn over their land and property to the federal government in exchange for the necessary financing to build a modern facility to house the blended institutions.
- Standard Construction Company receives the principal contract to build the new MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
- On December 30, ground is officially broken for MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Among those present at the ceremony are Eleanor Tydings, Elysabeth Barbour Welsh, Charles S. Dewey and a host of dignitaries. The following November, construction begins on what the media calls a "miracle building" and "a dream come true."
- On December 1, MedStar Washington Hospital Center is formally dedicated during a ceremony held in the auditorium of the new School of Nursing. The Washington Star later heralds the facility's much-anticipated public debut by noting: "Three historic institutions will shed their worn-out garb and emerge as one, dressed in shining apparel that only modern building and science can design."
- MedStar Washington Hospital Center School of Nursing holds its first nurses' cruise on the Chesapeake Bay-an event that becomes an annual thank-you sponsored by generous MedStar Washington Hospital Center physicians for the next for 20 years.