Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, VA Image 1
    Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, VA Image 2

    Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, VA History

    The Portsmouth Naval Medical Center is the Navy's oldest continually operating hospital, serving since 1830. Today 4,300 sailors and civilians take care of over 420,000 active duty patients and their families. The area of Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Yorktown are collectively known as Hampton Roads and make up the largest military concentration in the world.

    The Medical Center was originally Fort Nelson in 1776. The fort was captured by the British and later abandoned until 1827 when the Commissioners of Naval Hospital Fund requested it be turned into a naval hospital. To save on costs, part of the hospital was built using old bricks from Fort Nelson. Some of the first patients were from the Mexican-American War in the 1830s. When the Yellow Fever outbreak reached Hampton Roads in 1855, the hospital saw over 600 patients from July to November as part of its first ever humanitarian efforts.

    After Virginia voted to secede from the Union, the hospital remained under the control of Confederates until 1862. The Navy took back control in 1864 and the remaining years of the war were some of the busiest of any Naval hospital. However, the years after the war included some of the biggest drawdowns until the 1880s finally brought some expansion and the center's first X-ray machine in 1897.

    Portsmouth Naval Medical Center created the first hospital ship, named the Solace, in response to the Spanish-American War. Hospital expansion hit a record high with the advent of World War I in 1917; personnel for combat, training, and treating the injured jumped from 70,000 to 530,000.

    The end of WWI caused another drawdown, but the hospital developed the first internship programs for Graduate Medical Education in 1937 which kept its momentum going, at least in part. After World War II, the hospital did not have to scale down and at the end of the Vietnam War was temporary housing for 12 recovering Prisoners of War. The hospital continued to expand during the 1990s and still cares for hundreds of patients every day.