St. Elizabeth Center
Greater DC | Government, Institutional
Built in 1852, the St. Elizabeths Center building in Washington, D.C., served as a psychiatric hospital until the late 1990s. By the time the Department of Homeland Security announced it would move its headquarters to the building in the late 2000s, the structure required significant renovations. The structure’s National Historic Landmark Designation required that the exterior brick façade and heights up to five stories remain in place. Baker poured heel blocks and underpinned the entire perimeter to protect the exterior. Following demolition of the interior, Baker installed a 2-foot-thick base mat across the entire basement level, tying into the newly installed underpinning. Baker then placed 240,000 square feet of elevated structural decks over five levels, with only a 4-inch gap between the back face of the new shear wall and the existing brick. Baker beat all milestone dates the client requested.
Additional Project Details
The St. Elizabeths Center Building in Washington, DC, was originally built in 1852, and opened in 1855 as the first federally operated psychiatric hospital. It is believed that St. Elizabeths treated more than 125,000 patients from 1855 until the late 1990s. Over the years, the hospital has treated infamous patients such as John Hinckley Jr., who shot Ronald Reagan, Richard Lawrence, who attempted to kill President Andrew Jackson, and the assassin of President James Garfield, Charles Guiteau.
After decades in decline, the Center Building and its surrounding 176-acre campus, which also includes dozens of other smaller buildings, could no longer be maintained. In 2004, the federal government stepped in and took control. After three years of searching for an occupant, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would move its headquarters to the campus and the Center Building after extensive renovations.
Due to St. Elizabeths National Historic Landmark Designation (established in 1990), the exterior brick façade covering 3,500 linear feet around, and heights up to five stories had to remain in place. The interior of the entire building was to be demolished and rebuilt.
First, Baker poured heel blocks around the perimeter of the building, so existing brick walls could be braced. After the walls were braced, the entire perimeter of the building had to be underpinned and the inside of the building was demolished.
After the interior demo was complete, Baker installed a 2-foot thick base mat across the entire basement level, tying into the newly installed underpinning under the 162-year old brick façade.
Baker then poured 240,000 square feet of elevated structural decks over five levels. The shear walls were placed adjacent to the existing wall, with only a 4-inch gap between the back face of the new shear wall, and the existing brick. Due to the fragile nature of the existing brick wall, extreme care had to be taken to ensure no pressure was ever put against the existing wall.
The project team used stay form as the backside of the wall to prevent any part of the newly placed shear wall from touching the existing wall.
Due to the building’s old age, there were many challenges along the way that caused scheduling issues prior to and throughout Baker’s work. Baker committed to, and beat, all milestone dates the client requested. Baker’s main scope of work was completed in June 2017.