As you have watched "Mercy Street," have you wondered whatever happened to Mansion House Hospital? Here's what it looked like then--on South Fairfax Street, between King and Cameron Streets:
As you may already know, the Greens built and operated the hotel, considered the city's finest. It turns out that they had opened a small hotel next door that was so successful, they built this bigger building in 1855. So it was only about 7 years old when turned into the hospital.
After the war, it reverted to a hotel, then became a boarding house and fell into general disrepair. Long-time residents remember a not-very-nice building; one told me (not sure if this is urban legend or not) that you could pay an elderly man 25 cents and he would take you around the building.
RIGHT behind the building stood the Green's house. This wasn't (and isn't) just any house--it was one of the finest in town, built by colonial-era mogul John Carlyle. So, when the program shows Emma Green going easily back and forth between her home and the hospital, she had to take fewer than 100 steps to do so.
Here it is today, photographed over the weekend. More about it below.
The lamp post is where the back of the Mansion hotel/hospital began. Remember James Green was an entrepreneur and apparently didn't mind losing his front yard to his money-making operation.
The "ghost marks" on this wall is where Mansion House connected to the building to its immediate south. I stood with the Green/Carlyle house behind me as I took this photo.
So...as you have deduced--the house remains, the hotel/hospital does not.
In the 1970s, according to former curator Sarah Coster, the Northern Virginia Park Authority purchased the property. Debate raged for quite a while about what to do with the buildings. According to her, they tried to raise the money to restore Mansion House--maybe things would have been different today, but no takers in the early 1970s.
With a limited budget, they chose to go with what was considered the most historic thing at the time--restoring Carlyle House to its pre-Revolutionary War beginnings. Trumping the Civil War, as it were, one of the rooms was used by General Braddock, the British general from the French and Indian War, for a Council of Governors.
Carlyle House was re-opened in 1976 after a six-year restoration.
With interest in the Civil War even before Mercy Street, they have had mounted special exhibits about the property's use as a hospital. Now with the series, they have a new exhibit on the second floor about the doctors, nurses, patients, and others.
I toured it this past Saturday and was happy to see that one panel was dedicated to the relief workers who came to Alexandria--Julia Wilbur and Harriet Jacobs.
Which brings me to a final plug--my own talk about Wilbur and Jacobs this coming Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Alexandria Black History Museum on Wythe Street.