History of the Hampton Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC)
Since the Revolutionary War, the Nation has sought to provide care for those who have fought, or have been wounded, in the defense of this Nation. At first, there were a series of military run hospitals called the National Soldier's Home System. This VA Medical Center is the fourth oldest in the Nation--being initially called the National Home for Volunteer Soldiers and Sailors. In 1930, it became a part of the newly formed --"Veterans Administration" Department and was known until 1976 as the Kecoughtan VA Hospital. Captain John Smith landed here on his third trip to Virginia in 1619 and met with a friendly people, the "Kecoughtan Indians", who helped him find a spot to settle near Jamestown. Strawberry Banks was named in his journal as "a fair lush green land covered with wild strawberries." This property adjacent to the VA is now student housing for Hampton University.
Union General Benjamin Butler bought the property, which is the current site for the VAMC, for $50,000 in 1870 and promptly sold it to the US government to be used to build the "Southern Branch" of the National Home system. This followed after VA's had been opened at Wood, Wisconsin; Togus, Maine; and Miles City, Montana.
He later ran for and was elected Governor of Massachusetts. General (Butler) was nicknamed "Spoons" by many southerners who claimed he confiscated their silverware as he and Gen. Sherman fought all through the civil war battles in the South. He was one of the first members on a Board of twelve Governors created to run the National Home System. The first hospital building was very close to the site of our current Hospice Building #114. The original cornerstone was found during excavation and now resides in the Casemate Museum at Ft. Monroe, as do two brass cannons which were located in the field adjacent to the National Chaplain Headquarters (former Treasury Building & later Chief of Staff Quarters Building #33). The Chesapeake Female College operated on this campus from 1854 until the beginning of the Civil War, when it was shut down and the property used to tether hot air balloons used by the Confederates to spy on troop movements at nearby Ft. Monroe and Ft. Wool. The first VA Director was a Chaplain who had been former Headmaster of the Chesapeake Female College. The Monitor and Merrimack fought off the shores of the VA Hospital over near the historic homes on the banks of Chesapeake Boulevard.
In 1973, the Hampton VA Medical Center was instrumental in the founding of the third medical school in Virginia, Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). The Department of Veterans Affairs provided significant start up grant funding, and the first Dean came from the Department of Academic Affairs in the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C. to help the fledgling medical school become operational. EVMS is unique in that it does not own a hospital in which to conduct its teaching but rather utilizes the campuses of several different affiliate hospitals and medical centers to provide training for its residents.
EVMS is funded by federal, state, and private funds. Hampton VA Medical Center provides training to 45 funded residency positions each year, and approximately 112 different individuals rotate through this resident training experience. Most of these residents rotate through the VA two or three different times during their four-year residency experience. In addition to the VA, our healthcare partners, Sentara, Bon Secours, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth provide medical student clerkships and residency training.
Facts and Trivia
Hampton VA Medical Center has been operating on this site for 135 years. The site was purchased in October 1871 and began operations in January 1872.
The Medical Center has 477 operating beds and draws from an eligible catchment area of 160,477 veterans in Virginia and North Carolina.
Hampton VAMC treats approximately 3000 inpatients and over 218,000 outpatients each year. There are nearly 25,000 unique individuals enrolled with a primary care provider at this facility each year.
The center employees approximately 1100 Full Time Employees.
This 85-acre site is listed on the National Historical Registry. The Registry catalogues and protects the VAMC architecturally unique buildings.