Hampton VA opened 150 years ago to help Black Union veterans; its history gets fresh look
By LISA VERNON SPARKS | The Daily Press | Published: December 13, 2020
HAMPTON, Va. (Tribune News Service) — More than 150 years ago, on the same land where the
The students fled during the Civil War and Confederate forces seized the site, making it a lookout. The school had a dome facing a
His purchase mostly coincided with
That place, informally known as the Old Soldiers’ Home, took its first patients
“They established this for the
Cade’s former co-worker,
In her eyes, the
“I just loved the history. It’s important. I say it specifically in these times with the problems of race,” Liston said. “This house was built for
Cade, 79, who has worked at the
“It’s amazing. She has kind of encouraged me. It tells what our heritage is. I make it a point to tell our newcomers on our tour. That brings pride for our work,” he said. “If people don’t know that how can you be proud of it and take care of it?”
In previous years, the
“She probably has 30 to 50 boards. I call her a historical hoarder,” Cade said.
A layered history
Liston worked some three decades at the medical center as a ward secretary, working with patients and eventually moving up to be the assistant finance chief.
In her spare time, she was an unofficial historian. Liston harvested information about the hospital from anywhere she could find it. Its story is lengthy, with multiple layers and incredible moments — such as when yellow fever hit in 1899 and the entire facility had to be quarantined.
“They were housing these men outdoors, in an airy climate thinking they would help them, when the mosquitoes were causing the fever. They were passing it from one to another,” Liston said.
Or when the bridge at what was called “Phoebus Entrance” was taken down to make way for the interstate. Liston’s memory is a little fuzzy here, but she thinks that took place sometime during the late 1950s. The bridge was located where present-day
Long before any cornerstone was laid, in 1607, English settlers encountered the “Kicotan” Indians, later spelled Kecoughtan, according to some historical records she gathered.
More than two centuries later, a Baptist minister had a school built on the then-34-acre site, calling it the
“It was a
After the war ended, Butler took charge of the property during the fall of 1870, but the anniversary is celebrated
In 1865, shortly before the Civil War ended, President
It was the first of its kind asylum to offer civilian medical care to veterans of temporary volunteer forces. The National Home housed some tens of thousands of vets and offered medical care and long-term housing.
They were called “soldiers’ homes” or “military homes,” according to the
As the years passed, more acreage and buildings were added. It became its own community that had medical buildings, a mess hall, a theater, a bakery, a library, a band stand, the treasurer’s office and chapels, to name a few.
In 1930, when the federal government consolidated the
The facility even had its own newspaper for a while. “The Home Bulletin” was published by the veterans from 1884 until 1891. It was printed at the college known then as
“I find it interesting just to read some of the things that are put in here. One article was about a runaway horse ... with a carriage that dumped the passenger out,” Liston said. “Just local news, but then they would also tell the veterans (about) benefits. And you could subscribe to it. That was very cheap, maybe 3 cents.”