Naval Hospital Boston Historic District (Chelsea Naval Hospital)

Surgeon, nurse and corpsman examine a patient in Ward 6, Group 1, on June 2, 1919, Naval Hospital Boston (Chelsea Naval Hospital)
Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Historical Center, # NH 42355
At the time the Boston Naval Hospital closed its doors in 1974, it was the oldest naval hospital in continuous service in the United States. The hospital, which was commissioned and opened on January 7, 1836, was one of the first three hospitals specifically authorized by Congress to accommodate naval personnel. Previously, navy personnel received treatment at marine hospitals, which the U.S. Department of Treasury operated for all mariners. Originally called "Naval Hospital at Charlestown (Chelsea Site)," then "Naval Hospital Chelsea," and finally "Naval Hospital Boston," it served naval personnel and others during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, the Chelsea Fire of 1908, World War I and World War II. At the time the hospital shut its doors it comprised approximately 88 acres of land on the Mystic River with five historic buildings erected between 1836 and 1915, as well as several other buildings built after 1915.

Top photo: Original 1836 naval hospital
Bottom photo: Two ordnance buildings (magazine on the right)

Photos by and courtesy of John DePriest, Chelsea Department of Planning & Development

The original 1836 granite-block hospital building was constructed near the river and could accommodate about 100 patients. A wing was added on the west side in 1865 and an addition to the north end in 1903. A new hospital building was constructed further up the hill and away from the river in 1915 and the old building was converted to quarters for hospital personnel.

Before the first hospital building was completed, several acres of land near the river were transferred to the Bureau of Ordnance and two single story stone structures were built. The larger of the two buildings was used as an ordnance magazine and was constructed in such a way that if there was an explosion it would be directed upward through the roof rather than outward through the walls. Both buildings were returned to the hospital in 1910 and the smaller building was converted into quarters for the Chief Radio Operator for the radio station on site. After the station was discontinued both buildings functioned as storage space.

Marine Hospital and Commanding Officer's Quarters
Photos by and courtesy of John DePriest, Chelsea Department of Planning & Development
In December 1857, a parcel of land was sold to the Treasury Department for the erection of a new marine hospital. Originally a three-story building, it was built with an I-shaped footprint. A fourth-story was added in 1866 with a mansard roof. It often served as overflow space for the naval hospital. The building and property were returned to the Navy Department in 1940 and the building was converted into barracks. After the Naval Hospital closed, the property was turned over to the City of Chelsea for redevelopment. The original naval hospital and the marine hospital buildings were converted into condominiums in the early 1980s. Also still extant are the ordnance buildings and the Commanding Officer's quarters, parts of which date to 1856.

The Naval Hospital Boston Historic District (Chelsea Naval Hospital) is located along the Mystic River, west of the Northeast Expressway, in Chelsea. While the buildings are now privately owned, they can be viewed from the street. The Commanding Officer's Quarters, Naval Hospital building and ordnance buildings are all located on Commandant's Way, and the Marine Hospital building is located on Captains Row.

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