The site, now called Adimral's Hill, was first settled by
Samuel Maverick in 1624. On this hill Maverick built the first house
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first ferry in the colony, was
established on May 18, 1631, with the landing near the Maverick home.
The first County Road in the colony to and from Salem, had its
terminus at the
ferry. From this hill, people from the surrounding countryside
gathered to watch the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775. Many of
the wounded were taken across to the Chelsea side of the river and on
the slope of the hill had their wounds dressed.
In 1823, The Commissioners of Naval Hospital, purchased 115
acres of Admiral's Hill from Aaron Dexter for $18,000.
A move was made by Congress in 1884, to sell the
hospital and grounds and erect another hospital on a harbor island.
The move was defeated by the Surgeon General, who stated: "the
hospital was built and maintained by the Naval Hospital Fund and was
not public property".
Due to a lack of money in the Hospital Fund, at this time,
Congress did not approve the construction of the hospital until July
10, 1832. Work progressed very slowly, again due to a lack of funds.
Finally, on January 7, 1836, the hospital was completed and
commissioned. Located on a round hill, 112 feet above sea level, the
hospital was built on the Southern slope of the hilll, facing the
water. Built of Vermont granite, the hospital had a foundation
measuring 149' x 71' and a height of three stories, with cellar and
attic, and had a 100 bed capacity. A wing was added to the original
building in 1865.
Original Naval Hospital - Chelsea, Massachusetts
In 1856, thirty acres was transferred to the Ordnance
Department for magazine and gunnery houses. Ten acres were sold to
the Treasury Department to erect a Marine Hospital. During the Civil
War and the Spanish American War temporary buildings and tents were
used as wards. Chelsea became the hospital for malaria treatment,
especially during the Spanish American War, due to its favorable
climate and excellent medical care.
Marine Hospital - Chelsea, Massachusetts - 1847
During the Chelsea Fire of 1908, the hospital treated over 300
casualties of various degrees and helped to feed over 12,000 made
homeless by the fire.
Further up the hill, a new and larger hospital building was
constructed and commissioned April 24, 1915. Shortly following the
opening of the new hospital building, America entered World War I in
1917 and was struck by the deadly influenza epidemic. The influenza
hit the civilian population first. The influenza then reached epidemc
proportions and spread to military installations.
The U. S. Naval Hospital - Chelsea,
Massachusetts - 1915
The medical staff of seven doctors at the Naval Hospital was
increased to 64, while the Nurse Corps of 17 was increased to 70. The
hospital became so overloaded with admissions that many patients had
to be diverted to all the civilian hospitals in the greater Boston area.
By the time the epidemic was over the hospital had made a total of
2,582 admissions. By the time the scourge had run its course 5,000
Navy men had died from the flu. In the Army, 20,000 soldiers died in
United States installations while 5,000 died overseas, from the
disease. In all, 550,000 people died in America from the influenza in 1918.
Chelsea Naval Hospital Entrance
The burial grounds on the hospital hill became
overcrowded with the only space left was too near the water. On
September 25, 1918, orders were received to cease burials in the
cemetery on the hospital reservation. Arrangements were made and an
area was purchased in Woodlawn Cemetery. On June 8, 1920, the
exhuming of all remains in the hospital cemetery to be transferred to
Woodlawn Cemetery. The transfer of bodies began June 8, 1920 and was
completed on August 5, 1920. During the process of exhuming, it was
discovered that the hospital cemetery had been relocated at an
earlier date. Some of the graves opened were minus bodies. Remains of
sixteen bodies, without markers, were placed in one box and burried
in a single site in Woodlawn Cemetery.
During WW1 the Chelsea Naval Hospital was
enlarged to 1000 beds to accomodate the sick and wounded. This is
from a 1920 photo.
This 1920 photo is of the original Naval
Hospital building serving as the Nurse's Quarters. In the background
is the old Chelsea Bridge connecting Chelsea and Charlestown.
United States Naval Hospital - Chelsea, Ma
In 1940 the Marine Hospital was moved to a new location in
Brighton, Massachusetts. The Naval Hospital acquired the Marine
Hospital in 1942 and converted it to barracks for the hospital corpsman.
In World War II, patient numbers were as high as in 1917 and
1918. The patient census rose from 279 in 1939 to over 2700 in 1943.
The most notable of patients was Ensign John F. Kennedy. Ensign
Kennedy was admitted for treatment of wounds received when his PT
boat was cut in half in Pacific combat. Ensign Kennedy entered Room
207 Chelsea Naval Hospital June 11, 1944 until December 26, 1944.
Wayne M. Caron Hospital Corpsman Third Class, U.S.Navy, born
in Middleboro, Massachusetts, served as a Corpsman at the Chelsea
Naval Hospital before going to VietNam. He was the first Hospital
Corpsman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from the
state of Massachusetts; "For conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of
duty." Wayne Caron was killed in action July 28, 1968. A park
and plaque was dedicated to his honor at the Chelsea Naval Hospital
on November 29,1970.
The Chelsea Naval Hospital was closed down in 1974.