Sheila Bailey, executive officer to the director, catching up with VA retiree Shelby Liston during the Hampton VA Medical Center 150th Anniversary observance. Liston was on hand to offer historical background to the celebration. Bailey and Liston were co-workers over 26 years ago.

Hampton VA Medical Center is celebrating its 150th Anniversary (1870 – 2020). Hampton VA was established Dec. 14, 1870.

More than 150 years ago, on the same land where the Hampton VA Medical Center currently resides, sat a female seminary built in the 1850s. During the Civil War, the students fled shortly before Confederate forces seized the site, making it a lookout. The school had a dome facing a Union Army stronghold, the Fortress Monroe.

General Butler purchased the land in 1865. This mostly coincided with Congress passing an act in 1865 to establish the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. Five years later, Butler sold the land to the government for $50,000. He recommended it open an infirmary near Fort Monroe to accommodate African American troops.

May have been first federal project integrated facility

Longtime VA employee Joe Cade (r) tells staff member Bill Jordan about the history of Hampton VAMC as they review photos during Hampton VA’s 150th anniversary observance Dec. 14.

The campus would later become the Southern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers or the Old Soldiers’ Home. According to the National Park Service, “the Southern Branch may be the first Federal project specifically planned and established as an integrated facility.”

In honor of this historical birthday, local historian and former employee Shelby Liston and current employee Joe Cade provided information on the history of Hampton VA Medical Center.

Staff celebrated the anniversary in Hampton VAMC’s historic lobby Dec. 14, 2020.

“I just love the history. It’s important,” Liston said. “This house was built for Black Union soldiers. There are a lot of descendants here. There are a lot of Blacks that fought in the war. They needed a place to go and heal and be taken care of. I think that’s very important for people to know.”

“It tells what our heritage is”

Cade has worked at VA for nearly four decades. He says it’s a history to share, especially with new employees who rarely get to see the grounds. “It’s amazing. Liston 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. If people don’t know that, how can you be proud of it and take care of it?” Cade said.

Hampton’s staff plans to celebrate its historic anniversary with the public when it’s safe to do so.

Hampton VA is thankful to Shelby and Joe for donating their time and knowledge to help celebrate Hampton’s 150th.

John Rogers is a public affairs officer for the Hampton VA Medical Center.

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Published on Jan. 2, 2021

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