Carville: The National Leprosarium

Tour curated by: Elizabeth Schexnyder, Curator, National Hansen's Disease Museum

9-stop audio driving tour of the Carville Historic District, site of leprosy (Hansen's disease) quarantine hospital and treatment center from 1894-1999.

This hospital-community was designed to be self-sustainable. Quarantine laws dictated the development of the site into separate staff and patient areas. The tour covers the original sugar plantation (Indian Camp), the State of Louisiana's development of the Louisiana Leper Home (1894-1920), Daughters of Charity (Catholic nursing order), patient life, leprosy/Hansen's disease treatment, US Public Health Service administration of the National Leprosarium (1921-1999), and current treatment and research.

Locations for Tour

   In the 1700s, Europeans settled this area known as Indian Camp and developed a plantation economy along the Mississippi River. Robert Camp, a planter from Virginia, began purchasing land here in the 1820s. He farmed sugarcane and owned about 100…

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a chronic disease of the skin and peripheral nerves. 95% of the world’s population is naturally immune to the disease. Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent, was first identified under the…

The infirmary, built in 1933, had 68 beds in two open wards--men upstairs and women downstairs. Architects provided screened porches across the front of the building to allow patients fresh air. Notice the flat roof. Originally canopies had been…

In 1940, the patient population was between 400 and 450 and a massive renovation was underway. The improved hospital created individual rooms for 450 patients and the 13” thick concrete walls made the buildings as fireproof as possible. Fire was…

Carville was a typical community in many ways. A small town with its outstanding citizens, Stanley Stein and Betty Martin, for example, it featured many aspects of town life. Its one-room schoolhouse was racially integrated in the 1940s and…

The Carville cemetery is the only stop on the tour where you may exit your vehicle and take photographs. Just beyond the cemetery is a hospital incinerator with a driving ramp and tower built in the 1920s to dispose of all waste. Remember that…

The 2 silos and barns in front of you were built for the dairy herd in the 1920s. By the mid-1950s, an outside vendor was supplying milk and the barn fell into disrepair. HD has never been easy to study because the bacillus that causes it,…