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Harvey Hospital

Soldiers' Orphans Home (1870 ca.)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-2690


Harvey Hospital Marker

A red granite marker at the corner of Spaight and Brearly streets bears the following inscription:

“On this city block stood during the Civil War, Harvey Hospital, and later the Wisconsin Soldiers’ orphans home. Both established through the influence of Mrs. Cordelia P. Harvey, whose honored husband, Governor Louis P. Harvey, had, April 19, 1862, been accidentally drowned in Tennessee River, near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, where, after the battle of Shiloh, he went with supplies for the comfort of sick and wounded Wisconsin soldiers. Presented to the City by the school children of Madison May 29, 1908.”

Between 1852 and 1854, Governor Leonard Farwell erected a three-story, octagonal mansion, designed by architect John A. Bowman, on Spaight Street overlooking Lake Monona. Six years later he sold it to Samuel Marshall, G. Alder Ellis, and Charles F. Ilsley of Milwaukee.

After Governor Harvey’s death, his wife Cordelia was appointed state sanitary agent. In 1863, after seeing firsthand the wretched conditions wounded Wisconsin soldiers endured and suffered while convalescing in the South, Cordelia convinced President Lincoln to open the Harvey Hospital in Farwell’s old home so that soldiers could return to a familiar climate to recover from disease and battle wounds. By the end of the war, more than 630 soldiers had recuperated at the hospital, which closed in 1865.

The following year, Mrs. Harvey convinced the state to buy the hospital grounds for $10,000, then raised enough money through private donations to furnish and operate a home for soldiers’ orphans. It opened on January 10, 1866, and Mrs. Harvey became its first superintendent. Originally housing 84 orphans, by 1875 only 40 were left. These children were placed in foster homes, and the institution was then closed. During the home’s existence, a total of 683 children between the ages of 9 and 14 resided there.

The home was given to the University of Wisconsin to establish a medical school, but President Bascom decided the school should be in Milwaukee. In 1876 the UW sold the property to the Norwegian Lutheran Synod, which promptly opened a seminary using the octagonal house as a dormitory and the brick outbuilding for classrooms. A private high school, The Monona Academy, was shortly thereafter located on the grounds. In 1889 the Synod closed the seminary and opened the Martin Luther Orphanage. A fire in 1893 destroyed the buildings, and the orphanage was moved to Stoughton. The property was sold in 1894 to developers and parceled up into smaller lots. Harvey Nichols, a local builder and realtor, built the three-story, red brick Monona Apartments on the corner where the marker now stands.

In 1908 Madison school children were invited to contribute from one to five cents to help pay for a memorial. The scene at the dedication on Friday, May 29, was an imposing one, with hundreds of children singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” The Gisholt band played, and Civil War veteran H.W. Rood served as master of ceremonies. Miss Eva Thomas detailed the life of Mrs. Harvey, followed by principal speaker Attorney General Frank L. Gilbert, a former orphan at the home. He remarked, “And so today, you boys and girls, moved by the same spirit of patriotism, beautifully shown, dedicate this stone and present it to the city of Madison. I want to congratulate you for the splendid example you thus set.” Mayor Joseph C. Schubert thanked the children for the beautiful marker and assured them that it would be “protected and guarded by the city.”

Peggy and Gerhard Ellerkamp