The Union Hotel and Tavern

Historical image of the Union Hotel and Tavern building in Georgetown, Washington, DC.
The Union Hotel and Tavern. Created or published between 1909 and 1940.

The Library of Congress


Directions: Place the present day reference address (below) into your GPS or locate this address on a map to stand near the grounds of the former Union Hotel and Tavern.
Reference address: 2929 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007

The bank stands on the site of The Union Hotel and Tavern. Built in 1796, the hotel hosted many prominent citizens through the years including Robert Fulton, George Washington, and John Quincy Adams. By the time of the Civil War, this once glorious hotel had become a boarding house catering to young clerks, poor families, and travelling teachers. On May 6,1861, John Waters, the proprietor of the hotel, was notified by the government to remove all occupants from the building so it could be turned into a hospital. As the boarders left the premises they took everything with them, including chamberpots, leaving nothing for the government.

On December 12, 1862 Louisa May Alcott arrived at the hospital as a nurse. She came from her home in Concord, Massachusetts to help the Union cause. The hospital was full of men wounded from three different battles. Rushing about she was required to wash, dress, and feed the men, difficult tasks for a gently bred young woman. She wrote a book about her experiences at the Union Hospital called "Hospital Sketches". In it she describes the scene on the streets outside:

"Long trains of army wagons kept up a perpetual rumble from morning until night. Ambulances rattled to and fro with busy surgeons, nurses taking an airing or convalescents going in parties to be fitted for artificial limbs. Strings of sorry looking horses passed, saying as plainly as dumb creatures could, 'why in a city full of them is there no horsepital for us?' Often a cart came by, with several rough coffins in it and no mourners following; barouches, with invalid officers, rolled round the corner and carriage loads of pretty children, with black coachmen, footmen and maids."

Life in the hospital was a tremendous strain on Miss Alcott and she contracted typhoid fever. Six weeks after it began, her nursing career came to a close when her father came to Washington and took her home.

Last updated: January 5, 2024

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