Pacific Branch: Los Angeles, California

Dual Chapel at the Pacific Branch Photo by James Rosenthal

Quick Facts
11301 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA
The Pacific Branch (now the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System-West Los Angeles Healthcare Center) opened in 1888 in response to the growing number of veterans entering the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The 1884 changes in eligibility requirements allowed veterans with non-service related disabilities to enter a National Home branch. Located about five miles from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles, California, the Pacific Branch reflects changes that took place at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers as well as Federal veterans benefits and programs during the 1920s. Buildings from both the post-Civil War and World War I eras are prominent at this site. The National Cemetery, dating from 1889, is located on the eastern edge of the campus.  

In 1887, Congress authorized $150,000 to establish the Pacific Branch located west of the Rockies. Senator Jones and his partner, Colonel Baker, deeded 640 acres to the government to use for the branch. Jones also pledged $10,000 a year for five years for the construction of buildings; his heirs donated an additional 113 acres instead of fulfilling the pledge monetarily. Construction of the campus began in 1888 with the Surgeon’s Quarters. One thousand veterans arrived in 1888 and stayed in temporary barracks until the permanent quarters were completed in 1891 and 1893.  

Several buildings from the early National Home period survive. The 1900 Shingle style dual Chapel (Building 20) houses two separate sanctuaries for Catholic and Protestant congregations: they have separate entrances and interiors that are decorated and furnished according to denominational customs. Two staff quarters for staff remain (Buildings 23 and 33). The fanciful 1900 Streetcar Depot (Building 66) greeted veterans and visitors arriving at the Pacific Branch via streetcar. After the streetcar stopped running in the mid-20th century, the building became a newsstand for two decades. The airy, wood frame building is one of the last remaining examples of the early architectural style.  

The Pacific Branch experienced tremendous growth from the 1920s to the 1940s, supplanting Dayton's long reign as the most populated National Home branch. Many buildings dating from this period continue to be used today. World War I veterans were promised health care for service related injuries, but the National Home system could not accommodate this new influx of veterans. In 1919, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to spend more than $9 million on new health care facilities across the country to be managed by the Public Health Service. The Office of Supervising Architects, U.S. Department of the Treasury designed these new hospitals. Following recommendations from the Federal Board of Hospitalization, they created a standardized designs for the three basic hospital types: tuberculosis, neuro-psychiatric, and general medical and surgical hospitals. In 1921, Congress authorized additional money for new replacement hospitals and domiciliary additions at the National Home branches.

The Pacific Branch’s tuberculosis hospital dates from the early 1920s and used the standard design created by the Treasury Department for Veterans Bureau hospitals. While the basic floor plan was the same as others, the Treasury Department altered the façade to reflect the local architecture. For the Pacific Branch, the new buildings were constructed in the Spanish Colonial/Mission Revival style. The new hospital consisted of three buildings, only one of which still stands (Building 156). The Pacific Branch also added barracks to temporarily house unemployed veterans during the Great Depression. Built in 1932 and named for the president at that time, Hoover Barracks (Building 199) is the only one of the eight wooden barracks that still stands. Construction and development at the Pacific Branch continued through the 1940s, including the Wadsworth Hospital (Buildings 208 and 209). A replacement hospital (Building 500) in the 1970s shifted the focal point of the campus south of Wilshire Boulevard.  

The Los Angeles National Cemetery was dedicated on May 22, 1889, a few days after the first interment. The Works Progress Administration constructed the Spanish Revival style administration building-chapel and the indoor columbarium at the National Cemetery in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Unusually for National Cemeteries, the Los Angeles National Cemetery has two canine burials, though the practice is no longer allowed. Old Bonus, a dog the Pacific Branch veterans adopted, and Blackout, a war dog wounded in the Pacific Theater during World War II, are buried in the cemetery.

Last updated: November 21, 2017