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Hospital Designs

The devastating British deaths from disease during the Crimean War prompted improvements in sanitation and hospital design during the Civil War. The belief that improved air ventilation minimized the spread of diseases led to the development of new designs in hospitals where patients could be separated by type of injury or illness, thereby minimizing the spread of disease and infection. 

Florence Nightingale first suggested that military hospitals be built as pavilions.[1] These pavilions consisted of long separate wards that allowed for greater air ventilation and improved efficiency in treating similarly injured or diseased patients. By the end of the war, the pavilion style had become the predominate style for General Hospitals. Pavilions were designed to offer the benefits of a tent with the protection of a solid structure. They were lighter, warmer, and better ventilated and were approximately 150 feet long, 25 feet wide, with a 12 to 14 foot ceiling. Each pavilion ceiling had a series of adjustable shutters on the ridge of the roof that allowed ample ventilation yet protection from inclement weather. They were often connected by a common passageway that allowed quick access by hospital staff to any pavilion ward.
 
 
  
 
Each pavilion radiated out from the center at Hicks General Hospital in Baltimore. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-02578
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
Photograph by Mathew Brady in 1864 of a typical pavilion at Carver Hospital in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration,-05-0431a
 
 
 

[1]. Matthew Naythons, MD, The Face of Mercy: A Photographic History of Medicine at War (New York: Random House, 1993), 62