Georgetown Time Machine: Civil War Hospital

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM is considering a sadly relevant topic: a Georgetown hospital in a time of crisis. Specifically it’s a photo from the Library of Congress of the Seminary Hospital on Washington and Gay (30th and N nowadays).

The building was originally Miss Lydia English’s Finishing School for Girls. As this writer recounts:

From 1820 to 1861 this was “Miss English’s Seminary for Young Ladies”. Many of the daughters of Washington’s elite families were educated here under the direction of Miss Lydia Scudder English.

Miss English wrote in her brochure that she would provide girls with “that amount of mental and moral culture necessary to render them amiable, intelligent, and useful members of society”.

About 140 girls boarded each year at Miss Lydia English’s Georgetown Female Seminary. One of the most famous was Harriet Williams, the teenage bride of the middle aged Russian nobleman whose marital home is at 3322 O St. NW.

The seminary was three floors high and contained 19 bedrooms, a library, several parlors, and porches on the wings. It even had running hot water. The union army confiscated the seminary in 1861 and turned it into a hospital for officers after the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run.

It is believed that Mary Walker, the famous doctor, served here. She was the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Miss English, however, was one of Georgetown’s most ardent secessionists. She could not stand to see the United States flag flying over her building so she moved out of sight around the corner to 2812 N Street, where the widow, Susan Decatur, lived after the death of of her husband, Stephen Decatur, who died from wounds suffered in a dual in 1820.

The building was eventually converted into apartments, and is now known as the Colonial. Here is the exact scene nowadays:

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