Federal Staff Housing, Site Utilities, The National Leprosarium
Stop 2 of 9 in the Carville: The National Leprosarium tour
The State of Louisiana ran this 450 acre site as the Louisiana Leper Home from 1894 to 1921. In 1921, the Federal Government purchased the site for $35,000; the patient census was about 300. The United States Public Health Service (PHS) took operational control and the 'Home' became the United States Marine Hospital Number 66: The National Leprosarium.
The PHS’ mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the US. To your left are 2 streets of staff residences built for PHS employees. Over 100 residents lived on the staff side of the hospital. Today, the Louisiana National Guard and their families live here. To your right (3 o’clock) is Carville’s museum, established in 1996. Originally, the building served as the staff cafeteria.
The hospital grounds were divided between “Staff” and “Patients” sides. This small, planned community had 2 of everything — laundries, residential areas, golf courses, cafeterias, movie theaters and infirmaries — one for staff and one for patients.
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, was a highly stigmatized disease, and thought to be highly contagious. It is not. Not one of the medical personnel working at the Leprosarium has ever developed the disease. But there was no viable treatment until the 1940s, so fear prevailed.
From the 1890s until the 1940s, outside vendors did not want to deliver materials here for fear of accepting “infected” money. Even the resident electrician, who fixed patients' broken radios on the side, “washed” the dollar bills given to him by patients. His wife would pin the bills to the clothes line behind their house on 2nd street.
The building in front of you, to the right with the turquoise trim, is a gravity filtration water treatment plant built in 1923. Water was pumped in directly from the Mississippi. Today it is a distribution point only.
Carville also built its own electric plant a block down the road from the water plant. It produced direct electrical current from 1916 until the 1950s, and then became AC. And it generated steam heat to warm the hospital in the winter. On the east side of the electric plant was the ice house where residents could pick up a “block of ice for their ice-boxes. In the summer months, the ice house also served ice cream. Today, the plant distributes electricity only.
As you drive to your next stop, look back to the right and you will see the venting tower for the electric plant.
Stop 3 is ahead a couple of hundred feet, near the 4-way stop sign.