National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Marion Branch, 1700 East 38th Street, Marion, Grant County, IN
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See also individual structures documented as HABS No. IN-306-A through HABS No. IN-306-AR.
STORED OFF SITE AND ON SITE. mchr
Significance: The Marion Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) was established in 1889. The NHDVS was a federal institution authorized by Congress in 1865 and charged with caring for Civil War veterans disabled by their military service. By 1930 the system had eleven branches and became part of the new Veterans Administration. The Marion Branch was the seventh NHDVS branch and featured a picturesque campus of winding avenues and red brick Queen Anne buildings with wide porches and ornamental balustrades. The original buildings were designed by the Dayton, Ohio architectural firm of Peters and Burns. This firm also designed buildings for the Central Branch in Dayton and the Pacific Branch in Santa Monica, California.
As a federal facility, the Marion Home is indicative of the interplay between political patronage in Washington, D.C. and the development of a local jurisdiction. Like many of the NHDVS branches, a powerful politician was instrumental in influencing its location. Congressman George Steele of the 11th Indiana Congressional District successfully promoted the creation of this Branch in Grant County with the promise of an on-site natural gas well for free heating and lighting. This section of Indiana was experiencing a boom brought on by the discovery of natural gas in 1886. Steele served as local manager and later as Branch Governor.
In 1921, the Marion Branch became the Marion National Sanitarium, a facility dedicated to the treatment World War I neuropsychiatric cases, including what was then called shell shock and other mental disorders. The emphasis throughout the NHDVS had been shifting from residential campuses to more sophisticated medical care for veterans. Marion was an important effort to address mental illness in veterans. Since 1882 serious psychiatric cases were simply transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC. The large number of young veterans suffering from these problems after World War I brought a greater effort to use new methods of treatment to restore their mental health.
After 1930 the Marion Branch continued to specialize in psychiatric care as part of the Veterans Administration. The original hospital and many of the barracks were still used for patients until new psychiatric facilities were built on the west side of the site. While the current Northern Indiana VA Medical Center uses many of the historic structures, a number of the buildings on the east side of the campus are vacant, in disrepair, and slated for demolition.
Survey number: HABS IN-306
Building/structure dates: 1889-1891 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1892-1902 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1920-1921 Subsequent Work
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 99000833