The 176-acre west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington is an unlikely place for the Department of Homeland Security to call home — as it will by 2016.
Established by Congress in 1855 as a home for the mentally ill, St. Elizabeths is still in operation on its east campus. But the expansive campus on the west is a national historic landmark populated by late 19th century and early 20th century red brick buildings.
The main administrative building, which DHS will renovate for its own use, was designed in part by Thomas Walter, who designed the Capitol building.
I recently visited the closed west campus — where the first phase of DHS construction for a new Coast Guard headquarters is ongoing — and had a chance to explore this national historic landmark.
It’s easy — at first glance — to mistake St. Elizabeth’s with a traditional college campus, complete with administration buildings and expansive grassy common areas.
But while the distinct exteriors have weathered the passage of time relatively well, its interiors are in need of a major facelift.
Workers are already busy tearing out everything from old theater seats to metal sheeting, prepping for when about 15,000 workers set up shop in what had been left abandoned.
Be it ever so humble.