It’s been called a former orphanage, a mental institution, haunted and anything else crazy that students can think of, but what really was Mitchell Hall at 19th and E streets before it became a residence hall?
University Historian G. David Anderson said the building itself was actually none of those things – it was a hotel that GW later bought and converted into GW’s dorm of single rooms.
“Mitchell Hall was a former hotel,” Anderson said. “The building was constructed in 1927 and later sold to GW in 1966.”
However, while the building itself doesn’t have a spooky background, the square in the city on which the dorm was built did at one time serve as a home to St. John’s Episcopal Church Orphanage.
Thomas Wilds, St. John’s CEO, said their orphanage used to be located at 1920 F St. near where Mitchell stands today and was in fact closer to Thurston Hall than Mitchell.
Wilds said the orphanage was located on the square for about 80 years from 1870 to 1956 before moving to its current location on MacArthur Blvd.
“The building was very old, with no plumbing and no electricity,” he said. “The building burned down and was rebuilt during our time at the F Street location.”
When St. John’s decided to move in 1956, Wilds said GW bought their building. But on GW’s campus today, there is no 1920 F Street. If it existed, it would be between The River Horse Bistro and Old Main.
Anderson said since the orphanage was formerly on that square, that’s probably where students got the idea to label Mitchell a former orphanage. But he has no idea where the students got that it was a former mental institution or was haunted.
“Mainly, the rumors must have started because students tell other students legends and it spreads around campus,” he said. “The rumor may have started because the orphanage was near Mitchell.”
While Mitchell does not have as Halloween-esque a history as students may like, Anderson said that there have been some interesting changes in its use over the years.
“Mitchell was originally a men’s dorm in 1966, but the University turned the building co-ed in the ’72-’73 academic year,” he said.
At least GW guys can be thankful for that.
“What’s the deal with…” is a regular feature in the Life section. If you have an idea for the story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.