Explore the rich heritage of the VA Maryland Health Care System.
The ground was broken for the original Baltimore Veterans Administration Hospital in October 1949 at the corner of Loch Raven Boulevard and The Alameda. The original 295-bed facility, which was designed by local architects and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $4,852.000, was formally dedicated on October 26, 1952.
The hospital’s mission was described as an “all out battle against tuberculosis.” When the hospital opened, tuberculosis was a major health threat and the Baltimore area had more tuberculosis patients than beds to care for them. At the dedication ceremony, the Baltimore Veterans Hospital was pledged to become a “center of research as well as treatment for tuberculosis.” With such a large emphasis on research, the Loch Raven VA Medical Center (the name it came to be known by) quickly developed a working relationship with the medical schools at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
The hospital was physically laid out to suit its purpose of long-term treatment of tuberculosis patients. Instead of the normal ward layout, the hospital was equipped with 151 private rooms, with an additional 72 rooms containing two beds. Dr. Irwin J. Cohen was the first Manager of the hospital. He headed a staff of 10 medical doctors, one psychologist, one dentist, one oral hygienist and a support staff of approximately 350 nurses, dietitians and administrative and maintenance personnel.
By the sixties, the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis was so advanced that the need to hospitalize Veterans for this once dreaded disease was drastically reduced. In 1962, 95 beds at the hospital were converted to general medical and surgical beds. By 1966, the Baltimore and Indianapolis VA Medical Centers were the last two VA tuberculosis hospitals in the country. In January 1967, the Baltimore VA Medical Center was re-designated a general medical and surgical facility. A general residency was established, as was a 50 bed general surgical unit and a 33-bed thoracic surgery unit. The remaining TB beds were gradually turned over to medical care beds. At this time, the missions of both the Fort Howard and Perry Point VA Medical Centers were redefined and the surgical services for all three hospitals in Maryland were consolidated to the Baltimore VA Medical Center because of its central location.
By 1967, new surgical suites had been built and a new coronary care unit was completed. In 1976, an administrative building was constructed to house support services and an education wing was constructed in 1978. Internal modifications were also made to provide space for cardiac catheterization, nuclear medicine and Gastroenterology, and to all for the expansion of Ambulatory Care, Dental, Laboratory and Radiology Services.
In 1976, plans were approved for the construction of a new $80 million replacement facility to be built adjacent to the University of Maryland. President Carter approved the constructions plans in 1980, but the project was canceled in early 1981 due to budget deficits.
President Reagan’s budget in 1987 recommended a $110 million appropriation for construction of the new hospital, which was approved by Congress. The groundbreaking for the new facility was celebrated on June 22, 1987 and the building was officially dedicated on October 4, 1992. The Baltimore Sun referred to the new facility as the “Hyatt Regency of hospitals” in an editorial about the opening of the new Baltimore VA Medical Center that ran in the newspaper on October 2, 1992. The editorial also recognized the hospital’s patient friendly design and advanced treatment and diagnostic technology, including the world’s first filmless radiology department.
Approximately 50 patients were moved from the Loch Raven facility to the new replacement hospital on January 24, 1993, officially marking the opening of the new Baltimore VA Medical Center. At the end of the day on January 24, 1993, the Loch Raven facility closed its doors after 40 years of service to Maryland’s Veterans.
On March 7, 1994, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown and Senator Barbara A. Mikulski participated in a demolition ceremony to launch the first wrecking ball in tearing down the old Loch Raven facility in preparation for the construction of the new Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center. The ground was broken for the new facility during a ceremony held on October 17, 1994 and the official dedication ceremony was held on July 15, 1996. Approximately 40 patients were moved from the nursing home care unit at the Fort Howard VA Medical Center to the new Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center on August 4, 1996. Upon their arrival, the first patients to the new facility were treated to a gourmet dinner, which included filet mignon and sparkling cider.
On January 1, 2018, the Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center and the Loch Raven VA Outpatient Clinic were officially renamed the Loch Raven VA Medical Center to reflect the comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient services available at the site.
Perry Point’s First Settlers
The first inhabitants of the Perry Point peninsula were the Susquehannock Indians. Many arrow heads and other relics of the tribe can still be found throughout the Point to attest to their long occupation of the area.
In approximately 1680, Lord Baltimore made a grant of 32,000 acres of land, designated as Susquehanna Manor, to his cousin George Talbot. A part of the grant included Susquehanna Point, the first name given to the peninsula. When Talbot was appointed Surveyor General of the grant to promote settlements on the land, he found that John Bateman was already established on the Point. Bateman had acquired the land in 1658 by a patent from Lord Baltimore.
In 1710, Captain Richard Perry acquired the land. Although the name “Perry Point” has been ascribed to Captain Richard Perry, the original grant to John Bateman refers to the tract as “Perry Point,” thus proving that the change from “Susquehanna Point” occurred earlier than 1658.
Between the time that John Bateman owned the property and when it was purchased by Captain Perry, the records do not show the names of the owners. Relatives of George Talbot resided for a time on the Point and may have owned it during this time period.
In 1728, Perry Point was owned by John Perry, George Perry, Anna Templer and Dorothy Barren. In 1729, Phillip Thomas became the owner of the property, leaving it by will to his son Samuel Thomas in 1763, who in turn willed it to his son Richard Thomas in 1784. It was during the Thomas family ownership of the Point that the Mansion House was constructed around 1750 from bricks brought over as ballast on ships from England. The Grist Mill, which was built around the same period as the Mansion House, indicates that there was a settlement of considerable size on the Point.
In 1798, John Holmes’ name appears on the records as the owner of Perry Point, followed by Littleton Gale in 1799 and George Gale on October 11, 1800. On October 13, 1800, John Stump purchased Perry Point, which presumably included an estate of approximately 1,800 acres. It was during the residence of John Stump that the British came up the Chesapeake Bay in the War of 1812, burned Havre de Grace, and continued their destruction as far up as Lapidum, where they burned a grist mill owned by John Stump’s cousin. They returned down the river and marched to Principio, where they burned the Iron Works. For some unknown reason, they spared the Mansion House and Grist Mill at Perry Point.
John Stump died in 1828, leaving Perry Point to his son John Stump, II. During the Civil War, the United States Government took over Perry Point for the first time, using it as a training station for cavalry mules. The officers in charge of the project used the Mansion House for their headquarters, sharing it for a time with the Stump family. When the situation became too strained for comfort, John Stump, II, moved his family to Harford County to live with his sister. Upon their return, they found the Mansion House badly abused and the farm sadly neglected, but many of the former slaves remained voluntarily as hired workers and the usual activities resumed.
In 1848, an agreement was drawn up between John Stump, II, and the promoters of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad (a branch of the Pennsylvania system) for the right of way through the Stump farm. Due to great difficulties in the construction process, the road was not completed until about 1854.
In 1898, John Stump, II, died, leaving his estate to his ten children: Mary Smith, Judge Frederick Stump, Henrietta Mitchell, Anna Webster, John Stump, Katherine Magraw, Dr. George M. Stump, Elizabeth Boswell, Alicia Stump and Judge Arthur H. Stump.
Perry Point’s Connection with the United States Government
Soon after the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, several representatives of the U.S. Government were sent out from Washington to inspect a number of locations for an ammonium nitrate plan. Because of its favorable location close to transportation facilities, Perry Point was selected. In February 1918, the U.S. Government purchased the 516 acre estate for $150,000 from the Stump heirs.
The U.S. Government leased the Point to the Atlas Powder Company, which constructed a large ammonium nitrate plant and village of more than 280 buildings to house its employees. The ground was broken for the construction of the plant on March 3, 1918. After only 124 days of construction, the first unit of the plant started turning out ammonium nitrate on July 5, 1918 for use in high explosives. Soon after the completion of the plant and its village, the Armistice was signed and the manufacture of ammonium nitrate was no longer necessary.
By Act of Congress, Perry Point was turned over to the U.S. Public Health Service on March 3, 1919 for the hospitalization of War Risk beneficiaries and as a storage depot for surplus hospital supplies for the Army. The first hospital building, a two-story structure located in the village, was converted to accommodate 75 patients.
When the U.S. Public Health Service opened at Perry Point, the facility functioned as a general hospital that provided care for patients with various disabilities. In 1920, when the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Cape May, New Jersey closed, the patients were transferred to Perry Point and four more of the buildings in the village were converted for hospital use. It was at this time that Perry Point became a hospital that focused on neuropsychiatric care.
The U.S. Veterans’ Bureau took over Perry Point on May 1, 1922. That year the first permanent buildings, the five circle wards, were built. In 1923, the patient population at Perry Point grew substantially after several other hospital facilities closed and transferred their patients and staff to the facility. All activities on the campus were divided into four departments: Hospitalization, Supplies, Utilities and Rehabilitation.
In 1923, officials at Perry Point decided to adopt the name “Federal Park” to indicate government ownership and operation. Representatives of the Stump family and other leading families in Cecil County petitioned the authorities in Washington, DC, to restore the original name of the campus due to its historic significance. On June 30, 1924, the Government agreed to the change and “Federal Park” ceased to be and “Perry Point” came into its own again.
Growth and Development at Perry Point VA Medical Center
On May 25, 1925, five additional hospital wards and a recreation building were completed to accommodate the additional patient population. In the years that followed, many additional hospital and administrative buildings were constructed throughout the campus to meet the needs of Perry Point’s growing patient population. The Veterans Administration actually came into being in 1930 when President Hoover signed an Executive Order establishing the agency.
On October 30, 1989, ground was broken for a new clinical addition at Perry Point that was constructed to provide primary care and specialty outpatient services. The new outpatient care facility, which is attached to building 23H, was designed and constructed to better meet the needs of Veterans by offering the latest medical technology, expanded clinical space and comfortable waiting areas and exam rooms.
In October 1995, the Perry Point VA Medical Center integrated under a single management structure with the Baltimore and Fort Howard VA Medical Centers and the Baltimore VA Rehabilitation & Extended Care Center to form the VA Maryland Health Care System. On June 20, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved the plans to change the mission of the Fort Howard VA Medical Center. The mission change was requested to address the numerous structural deficiencies within the facility’s main hospital building, as well as the continuing shift nationally from inpatient to outpatient care. The plans for the approved mission change included shifting inpatient programs and administrative functions from Fort Howard to other VA Maryland Health Care System facilities. The first phase of the mission change was completed in September 2002, with the relocation of Fort Howard’s inpatient programs and administrative functions to the Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center and the Perry Point VA Medical Center.
On April 7, 1998, a new inpatient mental health care building was dedicated at Perry Point. The new facility (Building 364) was built to offer specialized treatment programs, rehabilitation services and enhanced patient privacy for Veterans in a comfortable, state-of-the-art setting. The mental health facility was Perry Point’s first new inpatient building constructed in over 50 years.
To better serve the needs of outpatients needing mental health care services, a new 5,600 square foot Partial Hospitalization Program replacement building was constructed at Perry Point and dedicated on September 20, 2004. This new facility, which is attached to the outpatient mental health clinic (Building 80H), provides a structured treatment program to assist Veteran patients transition back into the community and to prevent future hospitalization. The new facility is a replacement for the old Day Treatment Center (Building 10H), which was originally constructed in 1924.
Today, the Perry Point VA Medical Center has been serving the health care needs of U.S. Veterans for more than 80 years. There are currently over 85 buildings dispersed throughout the 397-acre campus, with several of the buildings constructed by the Atlas Powder Company still in active use. In 1975, the historic significance of the Mansion House and Grist Mill was recognized when the two structures were placed on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. These two buildings are the oldest known structures in the entire VA system.
In 1673, Thomas Todd’s plantation of 300 acres on the lower Patapsco River is shown on the Famous Augustine Hermann’s map as “Dod.” This land, which was acquired by Todd in the year 1669, was on the present site of the Fort Howard campus (also known as the North Point Site). Obviously, all of the property in this area did not belong to the Todds. A deed dated January 31, 1679-1680, conveyed 100 acres called North Point on the north side of the Patapsco River from Solomon Thomas to Charles Gorsuch. The deed also shows that the 100 acres of land was originally owned by Thomas Thomas (the father of Solomon Thomas) and William Batten.
In 1790, Robert Hodgson and James Thompson were given an exclusion privilege to operate a transportation service from Delaware through Chestertown, Maryland, to the Chesapeake Bay in Kent County. A ferry ran from Kent County across the bay to Fort Howard, where a stage ran into Baltimore (a rather small city at the time). This was a very popular transportation route in the late 1700’s.
In 1793, the land that now comprises the Fort Howard campus was the place from which Captain Robert North sailed his ship “Content.” Captain North named the point after himself and started a vast and promising trade there on the Patapsco River.
Twenty-one years later, during the War of 1812, the British sailed 50 warships with 6 to 7 thousand troops up the river. The ships arrived on Sunday, September 11, 1814, at dusk just off the shores of Fort Howard, but they decided to disembark the next day at dawn. The boats were lowered at 3 a.m. on Monday, September 12, 1814, and by 7 a.m. the whole army and some sailors were ashore. The troops landed by wading ashore on the Fort Howard grounds in an attempt to regain the land England lost during the Revolutionary War of 1775-1781. The British troops met the American forces in the Battle of North Point about 10 miles outside of Baltimore and only four miles from the Fort Howard campus. The British troops were unprepared for the well-seasoned American Army they met, and the heavy naval guns of their fleet in the harbor were unable to assist their land forces.
On September 14, 1814, part of this same British fleet fought a losing battle with the American troops at Fort McHenry. Failing to capture Baltimore by the North Point route, they attempted to advance on the city by way of its inner harbor, on the Patapsco River upstream from North Point. They were again repulsed. While this was taking place, Francis Scott Key, an American prisoner on a British warship anchored in the harbor, watched the battle and inspired by the beauty of the American flag waving over Fort McHenry, wrote our National Anthem.
For many years, the Fort Howard campus housed a lookout station. Its object was to note the number of ships passing in and out of the harbor, their origin, and the firm to whom they belonged. In 1795, Judge Thomas Jones counted about 6,085 vessels passing the Fort Howard campus. In 1846, it was decided that the lookout station at the Fort Howard campus was unnecessary since there were two better situated stations and it was discontinued.
In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain. The following year, Fort Howard was established and was officially declared a Military Reservation on April 18, 1900. The post was named Fort Howard by General Order #43 of the War Department on April 4, 1900 in honor of Colonel John Eager Howard, a Baltimore philanthropist and a distinguished soldier of the Maryland Continental Line during the Revolutionary War.
In 1902, reinforced concrete coast batteries were erected at Fort Howard. The batteries were named in honor of famous Marylanders of the War of 1812. Fort Howard, called the “Bulldog at Baltimore’s Gate,” was manned by four companies of Coast Artillery Corps – the 21st, 40th, 103rd, and 140th. The guns at the Fort included 12-inch disappearing rifles, 12-inch mortars, 6-inch rifles, and 4.7 and 3-inch rapid-fire weapons. Each battery contained from two to four guns. The gunners who manned these batteries were among the best coast artillerymen in the world. In 1908 they were credited with setting a world’s record by hitting a moving target over 5,000 yards away, nine out of ten times. The shell that missed was defective.
In 1917, the troops at Fort Howard were doubled and its men were put on a wartime basis due to the concerns of an impending war. To keep in shape, the gunners drilled by mock firing on steamers which were the only crafts sighted in their waters. The artillerymen who lived on the base resided in what was like any ordinary small city. Along the main driveway were attractive officers’ cottages, one of which belonged to the commander of the Fort. The “Bachelors’ Quarters” was one of the four barracks housing single enlisted men, while married men were permitted to live outside of the gate.
Sources of recreation at Fort Howard were two tennis courts, a football field, a golf course, a moving picture parlor, and the Post Exchange, which also housed the Post Office. The buildings on the property at that time included a hospital, a clothing department where soldiers could buy their clothes, a food storage commissary, a wireless telegraph station, a machine shop, and a photographer’s building.
In 1926, the Secretary of War was authorized to dispose of the Fort Howard Military Reservation, but the reservation was not sold and continued as an active post of the Regular Army until August 1940. It was the first headquarters of the newly formed Third Corps Area in 1920, and became the Headquarters of the Coast Defenses of Baltimore in 1922.
In 1940, about 80 buildings were removed from the post when the VA planned to transfer their hospital work from Fort McHenry to Fort Howard. On August 2, 1940, the VA acquired the title to Fort Howard from the Army and began construction on a five-story, 377-bed hospital. The hospital was originally designated to handle general medical and surgical cases. In January 1941, the VA officially moved to the Fort Howard campus. At the time the VA took over Fort Howard, the Medical Corps Buildings of the 12th Infantry were renovated for the nurses’ home, infirmary, and attendants’ quarters. The nurses’ home was the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur from 1925 to 1928. The 377-bed hospital building officially opened for patient care in 1943.
On June 20, 2000, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs approved the plans to change the mission of the Fort Howard VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System. The mission change was requested to address the numerous structural deficiencies within the facility’s main hospital building, as well as the continuing shift nationally from inpatient to outpatient care. The plans for the approved mission change included shifting inpatient programs and administrative functions from Fort Howard to other VA Maryland Health Care System facilities, and redeveloping the campus through Enhanced-Use legislation to make it a continuing care retirement community. The first phase of the mission change was completed in September 2002, with the relocation of Fort Howard’s inpatient programs and administrative functions to the Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center and the Perry Point VA Medical Center.
The second phase of the mission change was completed on March 23, 2019 with the opening of the new Eastern Baltimore County VA Outpatient Clinic in Rosedale, Maryland. The new clinic is a replacement for the former Fort Howard VA Outpatient Clinic, which closed in March 2016 as a result of water damage.
The VA Maryland Health Care System operates a Veterans Museum that is located in the historic Grist Mill on the campus of the Perry Point VA Medical Center. The Grist Mill, which was built around 1750 on the shores of the Susquehanna River, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest known structures in the entire VA system.