In late 1844, U.S. Navy Commodore David Porter ordered the construction of the Marine Hospital on the banks of the Navy base, overlooking the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The hospital was completed in less than a year. It was two stories high and measured one hundred feet in length and forty feet in width and was equipped with sixty beds.
During the Civil War, the Marine Hospital, along with the rest of Key West and the waters surrounding the island remained in Union hands. From 1857-99, the hospital dealt with numerous yellow fever and dengue fever, known as “break bone” fever, epidemics. KeyWest’s worst yellow fever outbreak in 1899 afflicted 1,320 persons and caused 68 deaths.
The building and grounds have seen their share of damage from numerous storms and hurricanes. The Havana Hurricane of 1846 slammed into Key West with a Category 5 storm force less than a year after the hospital was built. Even the stone construction could not withstand the ensuing storm surge and wind force. The structure lost its roof and was heavily damaged when the docks in front of the building were dashed into the side of the building causing one of the exterior walls to collapse.
In 1899 the hospital was primarily used for care of wounded military personnel during the Spanish American War. Located just 90 miles from the conflict in Cuba, it served as a medical facility that saved the lives of many brave soldiers.
During the First World War in 1918, the hospital was involved in treating victims of the influenza pandemic. The pandemic of 1918-19, known as “Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe”, killed 20–40 million people worldwide and was one of the greatest global health disasters known to man.
In 1930 Ernest Hemingway became familiar with the Marine Hospital after being treated for a gunshot wound to his foot. As a tribute he mentions the Marine Hospital in his novel To Have and Have Not. After the Great Depression, the hospital often had to charge $5.00 - $7.00 dollars instead of the standard allowance of $3.75 per patient just to break even.
The Navy took over the hospital during World War II and within two months closed the facility and turned it over to the Waves, a military branch for women in the Navy during the war. After the war it continued as Navy housing for junior officers until the closure of the Navy base in 1974. Late in the 1970s, the building was occupied as a home for troubled teens. By the early 1980s the Navy base, along with the hospital building, was sold for a private redevelopment of Truman Annex