Walter Reed General Hospital opened it doors on May 1, 1909. The commander of the Army General Hospital, Major William C. Borden had worked for several years to get funds for a new hospital to replace the aged one at Washington Barracks, now Ft. McNair. It was Borden that also worked to have the new hospital named for his friend, Walter Reed. Reed and Borden had known each other for years both teaching at the Army Medical School while holding other assignments, Reed as the curator of the Army Medical Museum and Borden at the hospital.
Borden had operated on his friend for appendicitis on November 17, 1902 and was shocked to find his condition much worse that expected. Reed died several days later after peritonitis set in. Reed was the only appendectomy patient Borden ever lost and he was devastated. Following Reed’s death, Borden became dedicated to honoring his friend. It was his dream to co-locate the hospital, the Army Medical School, the Army Medical Museum and the Surgeon General’s Library. This dream was partially fulfilled but in his desire to honor his friend Reed, he succeeded in ways he could not have imagined.
The size of the hospital grew rapidly during World War I when many temporary buildings were constructed. In 1923 the Army Medical School moved from its Seventh Street, NW location to a new building on a knoll west of the main hospital building (Building 1). The campus was known as the Army Medical Center. In the 1920’s large permanent wings were added to each end of Building 1. The Red Cross Building was completed in 1927. The first Easter Sunrise Service in the Washington, D.C. area was conducted on the grounds in 1927. Memorial Chapel built from donations raised by the Red Cross Gray Ladies was completed in 1931. Delano Hall was completed as a residence for nurses in 1933.
During World War II, the Forest Glen Annex was purchased and converted into a patient care and convalescent area. In 1951 on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Walter Reed, the name of the installation was changed to Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). In 1953 the successor of the Army Medical School, the Army Medical Department Research and Graduate School became Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).
A new Armed Forces Institute of Pathology building was built on the WRAMC campus and dedicated in 1955. The Surgeon General’s Library was incorporated into the National Library of Medicine in 1956. The AFIP added an addition in 1971 and the National Museum of Health and Medicine, successor of the Army Medical Museum, moved to the WRAMC campus. This move marked the extent that William C. Borden’s dream would be realized.
In 1972, after more than five years of planning, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a new Walter Reed Army Medical Center hospital facility. On September 26, 1977 the new facility was dedicated. In 1994 the building was re-dedicated and named the Heaton Pavilion in honor of Lieutenant General Leonard Heaton, a former commander of WRAMC (1952-1959) and U.S. Army Surgeon General (1959-1969).
Abrams Hall was completed in 1976. The new main hospital building was completely occupied in 1978. The Rumbaugh Parking Garage was dedicated in 1993, the Borden Pavilion in 1995, and the Mologne House was opened in 1997. A new building was constructed for the WRAIR at Forest Glen, opened in 1999 and named for Senator Daniel K. Inouye in September 2001.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a monument to a long tradition of patient care, medical research, and educational development and a tribute to the vision, intelligence, and dedication of the men and women who have worked here through the years. WRAMC continues to serve the nation dedicated to the Army’s values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
For more than 100 years, Walter Reed Army Medical Center has served a long, proud tradition of outstanding patient care, medical research, and educational development and stood as a tribute to the vision, intelligence, and dedication of the men and women who served through the years. It served the nation and the world dedicated to the Army’s values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Act mandated the merger of Walter Reed with the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda MD. The combination of these two historic facilities is intended to create America’s first national military medical center to provide world-class medical care for injured and ill Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, their families, and retirees.
The Army unit colors were cased on July 27, 2011. The National Colors were lowered over Walter Reed for the last time as a garrison of the U.S. Army at 1200 hours on September15, 2011. The property will be conveyed to the U.S. Department of State and to the D.C. government’s Local Redevelopment Authority.
This article was written by John R. Pierce, COL, MC USA (Retired) from information taken from various issues of the STRIPE and other WRAMC documents.