Louisville Uncovered presents: US Marine Hospital

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The United States Marine Hospital: Portland, Kentucky

The Ohio River has been the lifeblood of Louisville since the beginning of the River City. Back then river traffic had the nighty Ohio looking more like Spaghetti Junction than a lazy river. It was a pleasure to get an insiders look at the hospital as it stands today on Louisville Uncovered!

 In 1837, Congress authorized the construction of the U.S. Marine Hospital in Louisville “for the benefit of sick seamen, boatmen, and other navigators on the western rivers and lakes.” (Ohio and Mississippi rivers and Great Lakes.) At this time, steamboats dominated river traffic and development of industry.

The United States Marine Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, in the Portland neighborhood was built in 1845, and is considered by the National Park Service to be the best remaining antebellum hospital in the United States.[2] Of the seven hospitals built in the mid-19th century by the Marine Hospital Service,] It is the only one still standing,[4] even after surviving two tornadoes.[5] The building has been extensively restored to match its appearance in 1899.

The hospital, designed by W http://www.marinehospital.org/past.htm ashington Monument architect Robert Mills, opened on April 1, 1852, the cost to build? $61,939.44.

The patients at the Louisville Marine Hospital were usually victims of disease, temperature extremes, and mechanical deficiencies of the era’s naval technology. Boatmen may have been injured during their jobs or they may have contracted contagious including yellow fever, cholera, smallpox and malaria. During the American Civil War, along with Jefferson General Hospital, it formed the foundation of Louisville health care for wounded soldiers, both Union and captured Confederates. Following the war, the hospital in Portland re-opened with only eight patients, but within two years it would be the largest marine hospital west of the Alleghenies.

The Marine Hospital Service was the genesis of America’s modern health care system “In the early days, 20 cents a month was withheld salaries to pay the boatmen’s share of their healthcare in marine hospitals, with the federal government also providing support. This was the first example of pre-paid health insurance in American history.”

The structure was strategically placed between the wharfs of Louisville and Portland, with a “beneficial effect of a view of the (Ohio River), and the impressions and associations it would naturally awake in the minds of men whose occupation were so intimately connected with it.”.[6]

It was designed by Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument and several other prominent structures.[13] It was a “cutting edge” facility, with indoor plumbing and an air circulation system that helped prevent infections.[14]
During World War I the hospital cared for many amputees injured in the war.[6] During the 1930s, it served as housing for nurses and doctors of nearby hospitals.[7] The hospital closed in 1933.

The city of Louisville purchased the building in 1950 for $25,000 and used it for a short time as a hospital for the chronically ill.  In the late 1950s, it housed medical residents working in the newer hospital directly behind it, which replaced the Marine Hospital and today is known as Family Health Center Portland. The building was vacant from 1976 until 2007. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

U.S. Marine Hospital Update:  U.S. Marine Hospital Foundation Board
The Foundations’ best efforts over the past year have not succeeded in raising the necessary capital funds to allow us to renovate the building to suit the needs of potential tenants and thereby establish an income stream to maintain the U.S. Marine Hospital.
For a candid update of these efforts and plans, please read the following summary from the U.S. Marine Hospital Foundation’s Chairman, John L. Huber:
Present Day:
The U.S. Marine Hospital Foundation Board is continuing its quest to create the Center for Health Education and Training (CHET) at the Marine Hospital.

This entails raising $6 million dollars for interior restoration of the building for CHET occupancy, and
$2 million dollars to accomplish the site work and other necessary property improvements.
Find out how to help the Marine Hospital Foundation below:

Join the Friends of Marine Hospital! We hereby extend an invitation to you to become an official member of the Friends of the Marine Hospital support committee. Our mission is to support the building restoration in every way possible. We will be assisting with
• tours of the building
• speaking to civic, social, business, and church groups about the restoration to broaden knowledge and interest
• writing articles for newspapers, newsletters, church and government publications
• assisting in fund raising, and
• generally “getting the word out” to individuals and groups.
Annual dues are $25.00 and are tax deductible. Any larger contributions will be very much appreciated.
As a member, you will receive a membership card and periodic informational updates. Please make out your check to the U.S. Marine Hospital Foundation, and send with your name and address to Friends of the Marine Hospital, 2215 Portland Avenue, Louisville, KY 40212.
Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to relive river history and have a part in restoring one of Louisville’s most prominent historic landmarks.

Bill LaFollette, Co-chair, and Chuck Parrish, Co-chair, Friends of Marine Hospital

*History courtesy of the US Marine hospital.org, wikipedia