Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cordelia Harvey and Founding the Harvey Hospital, the 150th Anniversary

Harvey Hospital, 900 block Spaight Street, c.1863-1866, Wisconsin Historical Society WHi-37423.

Thursday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Cordelia Harvey and Founding the Harvey Hospital, the precursor of the Veterans Administration.
A history program by Civil War historian Rodney Dary.
Free and open to the public.
Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. 953 Jenifer Street, Madison WI
Hosted by Friends of Historic Third Lake Ridge

This program will mark the 150-year anniversary of Cordelia Harvey’s work that resulted in President Abraham Lincoln establishing the U.S. Army Harvey Hospital for Civil War convalescing soldiers in the enormous stone octagon mansion on Spaight Street. It was the seminal effort in the development of the United States Veterans Administration.

Civil War historian Rodney Dary, who owns the DeForest Museum of Civil War History, will present his research, images slide show and artifacts on the founding and operation of the hospital by Cordelia Harvey, the widow of Governor Harvey who lead the effort to create the hospital.

Cordelia Harvey had been widowed when her husband, Governor Louis Harvey lost his life while visiting war hospitals tending to Wisconsin soldiers in the south. That had occurred just months after he entered office. Cordelia Harvey oversaw the development of the board of directors and the fund raising that was necessary to lease, set up and operate the hospital and subsequently the orphanage that was subsequently housed in the building following the end of the war.

The hospital occupied the stone octagon mansion on the 900 block of Spaight Street that had been built by Leonard Farwell in 1855 that had been vacant for several years. In outfitting it for the hospital, two wood frame wings were added.

In the summer of 1865, at the close of the war, the hospital was closed. Cordelia Harvey then set about to convert it to a home for soldiers' orphans, which was opened in January, 1866, and served as its superintendent until the state took over the institution in 1867. With an average population of about 250 children, a total of nearly 700 children lived there in the decade following the war. In 1868, the stone school building was built on the corner at Brearly Street.(Harrsch, p.99) The orphans home operated until 1874.

The buildings then housed the Norwegian Lutheran Seminary into 1889, when the school was moved to Stoughton and the old octagon was converted to again serve as an orphanage for Norwegian Lutherans. After which, the buildings were vacant, demolished in 1895, the land subdivided and houses built, resulting largely in what remains today.

Look for the remnant stones of the old Farwell Octagon on the northeast front side of the building at 945 Spaight. You will see the original stone dated 1855 along with other stones from the mansion that were incorporated into the house when it was built around 1908.

Orphans Home by E.R. Curtiss. Wisconsin Historical Society ID WHi-2690.

Norwegian Lutheran Seminary, formerly the Soldiers
Orphans Home and school house. Andreas Dahl, 1879.

View East from Capitol over S. Pinckney. John S. Fuller. Wisconsin Historical Society, WHi-26867.
Wisconsin magazine of history: Volume 76, number 2, winter, 1992-1993
Patricia G. Harrsch, “This Noble Monument”: The Story of the Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home: This article provides a history of the Soldiers’ Orphans Home in Madison, formed at the close of the Civil War and operated until 1874.

Wisconsin magazine of history: Volume 95, number 2, winter 2011-2012
Wisconsin’s Reluctant Heronine, Cordelia Perrine Harvey.