Dayton VA Medical Center

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Dayton VA Medical Center
Established 1865
Opened 1867
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Thomas Budd Van Horne
Location Dayton, OH
Alternate Names
  • Dayton National Asylum
  • National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Central Branch
  • National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
  • Col. Edwin Brown Hospital


In March 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to provide care for volunteer soldiers who were disabled through loss of limb, wounds, disease, or injury during service in the Union forces during the Civil War. Initially called the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, the name was later changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers because of the negative connotation of the word "asylum." The first three homes opened in Togus, Maine; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Dayton, Ohio. Eventually, there were 11 National Home branches across the country. Requirements for admission were that soldiers had been honorably discharged from military service and that they had contracted their disabilities during the war. Men admitted themselves to the home voluntarily and could request a discharge. The homes were run in a military fashion: men wore uniforms and were assigned to companies; bugles and cannons signaled daily schedules. The homes provided schools, churches, hospitals, and gardens thought to be therapeutic for the veterans.

In 1867, the government purchased land and began construction on the Central Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton. By 1868, the Central Branch was equipped to care for 1000 disabled soldiers. As the campus grew, it eventually covered 627 acres, complete with living quarters, hospital, library, and chapel. It was constructed in part using lumber recycled from the nearby Camp Chase where Confederate POWs had been confined. By 1884, the Dayton Soldiers' Home, as it became known, had become the largest of its kind in operation, accounting for 64% of the veterans receiving U.S. government institutional care. Dayton's veteran population reflected the diversity found in the Union Army, including black veterans, who the Dayton Home was the first federal institution to admit. More than 200,000 African-American soldiers and sailors served in the Union military, and many went on to serve on cemetery details after fighting ceased. The Dayton Home was progressive in other ways, as well. It operated according to the philosophy that exercise, reading, music, healthcare, and occupational training in preparation for reentering society-all taking place in a picturesque environment-would improve the health and well-being of the veterans under its care. Modern innovations included steam heat, indoor plumbing, and elevators.

Ten years after its founding, by 1877, the facility had been transformed into a city with 132 buildings, many of which had running water, steam heat and gas lighting. There were six and one-half miles of road, two miles of gravel walkway, many wells and four lakes. The facility also boasted a 250 acre farm which provided much of the produce consumed by the patients.

In July 1930, the National Soldiers Home system was dismantled and consolidated into the newly formed Veterans Administration. A new hospital, Col. Edwin Brown Hospital, named for an early administrator of the site, was dedicated in 1931 replacing the old Home Hospital. An extensive construction program resulted from the depression and the government program of public works. Many of the frame and brick buildings dating from the earliest years of the Central Branch were razed to make way for a new mess hall, and new domiciliary buildings. Among the changes, the old snorers barracks, used to accommodate "loud sleepers" disappeared. Patrick Hospital, originally built in 1940 as a domiciliary, was converted to a geriatric hospital in 1950. The Dayton VA Medical Center was among the early Veterans Administration providers of nursing home care as mandated by an executive order signed by President John Kennedy.

Since 1974, the Dayton VA Medical Center has been affiliated with the Wright State University School of Medicine. The VA currently serves as the principal teaching hospital for Wright State University's Department of Medicine and as a major contributor for the Departments of Surgery, Dermatology, and Neurology. The VA is also affiliated with the University of Cincinnati for residency training in Psychiatry.

In 1989, the Veterans Administration was yet again re-named and restructured by presidential action. Today, the Dayton VA Medical Center is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and provides care for veterans in a multi-county area of Ohio and Indiana. The Medical Center is located on over 300 acres of land and the facility includes a general medical, surgical and psychiatric hospital; a nursing home; and domiciliary. Comprehensive medical programs in medicine, surgery, neurology, psychiatry, rehabilitative medicine and dentistry are available to today's veterans. [1]