Oct 22

Monument of the Month: The Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis

Thursday, October 22, 2015 4:00 AM

By

Head-on view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

Head-on view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

The Naval Academy, home to the U.S. Naval Institute, is home to many monuments big and small, that honor the men and women of the Sea Services and their contributions to the well-being of the country. But often the things that exist right in one’s own back yard can get overlooked. So it is with some reflection in that vein that this month’s featured monument begins at a spot very close to the home of the USNI.

Courtyard at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis that houses the anchor. USNI Photo.

Courtyard at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis that houses the anchor. Beach Hall is located at left. USNI Photo.

Up a short flight of steps and a down a small path is a nearly-forgotten and often overlooked courtyard that was once part of the expansive Annapolis Naval Hospital complex, which was disestablished in 1979. On one side is Beach Hall — home of the United States Naval Institute. On the other sides, ornamented by fig trees and shrubs, are wings of what is now the Naval Health Clinic Annapolis, which was established at the time the Hospital closed. The Beaux-Arts style buildings of the old Hospital — the fourth hospital at the Academy — were designed by noted architect Ernest Flagg, who designed many of the most notable buildings at the Naval Academy.

At the center of the courtyard, almost entirely boxed in by hedges, is a blue-pained anchor. The plaque reads:

View of the plaque accompanying the anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

View of the plaque accompanying the anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

“This anchor was donated by the staff of Naval Medical Clinic Philadelphia on the occasion of their disestablishment on 1 Oct 1995. This donation was accepted on behalf of the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis staff by Captain R. T. Sizemore, III, MC, USN, Commanding Officer.”

Close-up view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

Close-up view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

Like its sister facility in Annapolis, the Navy Medical Clinic Philadelphia began as a hospital. The Philadelphia Naval Hospital was an Art-Deco masterpiece designed by the firm of Karcher & Smith and built between 1933 and 1935 on a site on Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia, quite near the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The 15-story tower, designed with the latest of medical advances in mind, was quite the monumental change for the area; when it was first built, the area was still largely industrial, and its neighbor was quite literally a rat-infested garbage dump. But visitors and patients by-and-large did not see such unpleasantries; they were greeted by a welcoming veranda of tall shade trees from each of the then-48 states and a number of deliberate decorative flourishes that almost made one forget he or she was in a healthcare facility.

Hospital main

Main Hospital Building, Naval Hospital Philadelphia. Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-A-2.

From the outset, there were complaints that the hospital’s large capacity was in fact too large for its expected use — with 650 beds (eventually expanding to 1,100), the hospital was initially largely empty. But during World War II and in the future, the extra capacity became a vital asset as the Naval Hospital Philadelphia became the center for amputation, orthopedic and prosthetic services for Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard veterans residing east of the Rocky Mountains. Its pioneering prosthetic services are of particular note for their innovative work.

The hospital served veterans and active-duty personnel throughout the Vietnam War-era. Wounded veterans recalled the bonding with staff and other patients during their recuperative stays to be profoundly life-changing. Former Senator Bob Kerrey, wounded by grenade fire, recalled in an interview with Time Magazine in 2001 that the time he spent at the Hospital was

“‘the most important and defining period of [his] life.’ In that old-fashioned 12-story building, he shared a room and nine months of recuperation with Jim Crotty, a Marine pilot badly burned in an accident. ‘What he saw when he arrived at the hospital was room after room of people maimed like you wouldn’t believe,’ Crotty said. ‘He looked at the whole thing and said, ‘Jesus Christ, what did we do, why did we do it, who’s responsible?””

Other veterans recalled the two-block long corridor that connected the various wards in the hospital, long enough to earn the nickname “Burma Road,” and long enough for daredevil Evil Knieval to ride its entire length during a USO show.

Site plan of the Naval Hospital Philadelphia. Note the long connecting corridor that earned the nickname of "Burma Road." Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-58.

Site plan of the Naval Hospital Philadelphia. Note the long connecting corridor running across the plan that earned the nickname of “Burma Road.” Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-58. Click to enlarge.

Though the hospital had been built with modernity in mind, its construction did not lend itself to ready modification that accompany changing medical advancements an methods of treatment. In that sense it was a victim of its own forward-thinking design — built with then-modern medical practices specifically in mind, it was unable to be adapted for modern use in the future.

With the nature of military healthcare changing, the Hospital was finally disestablished after years of threatening to do so in 1991. Concurrently, the Naval Health Clinic Philadelphia was commissioned on 1 October 1991, following the decommissioning of the hospital. In 1993, the Clinic moved to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the hospital complex left vacant.

Another view of the Naval Hospital Philadelphia. Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-A-3.

Another view of the Naval Hospital Philadelphia. Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-A-3.

The clinic’s mission was to continue health services until September 1995 and to prepare beneficiaries for the changing military health care system following the clinic’s closure. To put it another way, in the words of its former commanding officer, Capt. Faye T. Scott, its mission became “to educate our patients about the changing military health care system — after all, we’ve been a very visible source of care in Philadelphia for many years. Not only do we take pride in the care we provide, we have also had a long-term relationship with our patients and we deeply care about what happens to them.”

A decorative Art-Deco heating grate from the Naval Hospital Philadelphia in the form of a sailing ship. Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-A-36.

A decorative Art-Deco heating grate from the Naval Hospital Philadelphia in the form of a sailing ship. Library of Congress photo HABS PA-6206-A-36.

In 1995, the Naval Health Clinic Philadelphia was officially scheduled to be decommissioned as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. Subsequently, on 8 September 1995, the Clinic was ceremonially closed, presided over by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, a decorated Marine who received care at the hospital following the loss of his leg in Vietnam, who described his stay as “a turning point in [his] life.” On September 30th, 1995, the Clinic closed its doors for the last time and was officially disestablished the next day. As one last memento mori, and as a symbolic continuing of the mission of the Naval Health Clinic network, the anchor was presented to Naval Health Clinic in Annapolis and installed in its courtyard.

Rear quarter view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

Rear quarter view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

On June 9, 2001, the old Naval Hospital Philadelphia was imploded, and the site cleared for a 1,500-space parking lot for Phialdelphia’s complex of sports stadiums.

Front view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.

Front view of the Anchor at the Naval Medical Clinic Annapolis. USNI Photo.