Infirmary, National Leprosarium, Carville, Louisiana.

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 installed to give patients a shady spot in the non-air-conditioned building and a place to catch a breeze.

The infirmary was the first stop for each new patient. In the “Medical Records” room, one of the Sisters would begin a medical chart. “What would you like your new name to be?” was the first question asked a new admission. Before the discovery of the drug treatment for leprosy in the 1940s, most patients took a false name to protect their family from social stigma.

Other medical services in the infirmary were:

• Bandaging clinic
• Eye clinic
• Surgery
• Laboratory
• Pharmacy
• Physical therapy
• X-ray
• Dental clinic
• Medical photography studio, and
• The Carville morgue

Sanitary codes in effect across the U.S. governing the transport of deceased leprosy patients required a corpse to be thoroughly embalmed before transport. Some states required a metal coffin, soldered shut. Every state health department between Carville and the ultimate destination had to be notified in order to move a body home for burial. Given these many difficulties, many patients were buried here.

Drive back down the avenue to the STOP sign. Turn right and continue to the second lamp post on the right, Stop 5.



Carville Historic District Driving Tour, Stop #4, The Infirmary
Audio narration of Stop #4, The Infirmary, on the Carville: The National Leprosarium tour.
View File Record