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St. Elizabeths Hospital from “A Few Good Men”

Jun 5th, 2017 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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We all know the scene – a nervous Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) briskly walks across a grassy field toward the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, while, behind her, a large U.S. Marine band playing a rousing rendition of “Semper Fidelis” marches in formation and a Silent Drill Platoon performs an enthralling and precisely-timed exhibition drill.  I am talking about the opening of A Few Good Men, easily one of the most famous segments in all of moviedom.  So I, of course, wanted to stalk St. Elizabeths Hospital, the former mental health facility where the bit was shot, during my trip to Washington, D.C. last September.  While the site proved a bit difficult to navigate, I did eventually get to see it – from afar.  To cap off my recent A Few Good Men postings, I thought I’d write about it today.

St. Elizabeths (no apostrophe) Hospital was originally established in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane on a 193-acre plot of farmland overlooking the Anacostia River.  The institution was spearheaded by Dorothea Dix, an activist who tirelessly pioneered for the humane treatment of the mentally ill, and Dr. Charles Nichols, a physician’s assistant who became the site’s first superintendent.

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Designed by both Dr. Nichols and architect Thomas Ustick Walter, the Gothic Revival-style hospital was built to showcase its bucolic setting, with the hope that the idyllic surroundings would bring peace to those who were institutionalized there.

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The federally-run hospital, which was re-named St. Elizabeths in 1916, proved successful for many years and underwent several expansions, eventually coming to encompass a whopping 350 acres on which stood more than 100 buildings.  The site grew so large, in fact, that it was divided into sections – the East Campus and the West Campus, with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE bisecting the two.  For various reasons, including decreased funding, the deinstitutionalization of health care and a cease on military admissions, St. Elizabeths began to see a decline in patient population in the 1940s.  By 1987, operation of the East Campus had been transferred to the District of Columbia.  Though admittance continued to decline, a new hospital was constructed in a small section of that site in 2010.  It continues to operate today.  In fact, up until late last year, John Hinckley Jr. was institutionalized there.  (Hinckley actually spent 34 years at St. Elizabeths before being released into the care of his mother on September 10th, 2016.)  While the remainder of the East Campus is currently vacant, it is set to be redeveloped as a mixed-use site.

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St. Elizabeths’ West Campus continues to be federally owned and though it, too, was set to be redeveloped, the plans fell through.  In 2004, the property was taken over by the General Services Administration and it is currently being transformed into the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security.

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Most websites detailing A Few Good Men filming locations state that the St. Elizabeths portions of the movie were lensed at 1100 Alabama Avenue SE, but that is incorrect.  That address marks the entrance to the East Campus and when the Grim Cheaper and I pulled up, we knew right away were were in the wrong spot.  Thankfully, I happened to find an extremely friendly security guard who counts AFGM as one of his favorite movies.  He had no idea it had been filmed on the premises, nor did he recognize the building that masked as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which I thankfully had screen captures of.  He was completely willing to help with the hunt, though, and called several of his co-workers for assistance.  After much discussion, he was finally able to figure out that the building I was looking for was located on the West Campus, which, being that it is home to the Department of Homeland Security, is, obviously, off-limits to the public.  The GC and I drove over there regardless, though, to see if anything was visible from the street.

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Though the West Campus is heavily guarded, security there was friendly as well.  The guard that we spoke with wouldn’t let us onto the property (for obvious reasons), but he did inform us that the structure that masked as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in A Few Good Men still stands.  He also told us exactly where to go to see portions of it from the street.

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Known as the Administration Building in real life, the neoclassical-style structure was designed by the Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge architecture firm during a major expansion the hospital underwent in 1903.

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The Administration Building popped up countless times throughout A Few Good Men.  Along with the opening segment . . .

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. . . and the scene in which JoAnne informed Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) that she got authorization to speak with his client from “Aunt Ginny” (in that bit, Kaffee’s car is parked just south of the building’s entrance)  . . .

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. . . it was also featured regularly in establishing shots of the movie’s many courtroom scenes.

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A Few Good Men utilized the west side of the Administration Building, but, unfortunately, only the east side is visible from the street.

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Though several websites report that the inside of an actual courthouse was used in A Few Good Men’s interior courtroom scenes, I have never believed that to be true.  Shortly before writing this post, I got in touch with a friendly crew member who confirmed my hunch that the courtroom was a set built at The Culver Studios in Culver City.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: St. Elizabeths Hospital’s Administration Building, aka the Judge Advocate General’s Corps from A Few Good Men, is located on the site’s West Campus, the entrance to which can be found at 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Washington D.C.  The campus is closed to the public, but the Administration Building is visible from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, about 1000 feet north of where it intersects with Milwaukee Place SE.

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One comment

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  1. Richard Y says:

    Investigation and diligence pays off once again – good job.


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