DeJarnette Center 2.0

Yesterday I received a comment about my post on the DeJarnette Center in Staunton, and I wanted to share my response with everyone. Additionally, I want to thank Alison for her thought-provoking comment.

Certainly, I do not condone the use of eugenics, and I do not want to offend those who have been affected by eugenics in the past. The practice of eugenics is sickening, and it has cast a black cloud over our nation’s past. After reading Alison’s comment I decided to do more research on the DeJarnette Center, and I came across the following links.

Dr. DeJarnette was the director of Western State Hospital from 1905 to 1943, and the DeJarnette Center was a child psychiatry hospital that was named for him. Did DeJarnette ever work there? Did people at the DeJarnette Center practice eugenics? I can’t find any information stating that DeJarnette worked at the child psychiatry hospital or that the facility implemented eugenics. Unless I am mistaken, the DeJarnette has acquired a negative stigma because it was named for a well-known eugenicist (which I will admit is very odd).

However, I do know that the DeJarnette Center existed as a legitimate child psychiatry hospital for many years after sterilization was outlawed by Virginia Legislation. The facility remained open until 1996, and when it closed it was known as the Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents.

In my research I also found some information about the use of eugenics in other places in Virginia. At UVA, the teaching of eugenics was very popular. According to historian Gregory M. Dorr, UVA became “an epicenter of eugenical thought” that was “closely linked with the national movement.”

In fact, Dr. Harvey E. Jordan, former Dean of the UVA School of Medicine, was one of UVA’s leading eugenicists. The hematology research laboratory at the UVA School of Medicine is named for Dr. Harvey E. Jordan.

Should we close UVA’s School of Medicine because one of its former deans was an advocate of eugenics? Should we demolish Monticello because it was built with the blood and sweat of slaves? Should we destroy the Capital of the Confederacy in Richmond because its builders were “traitors” and proponents of slavery?

These are tough questions to answer, but in the end we must remember that we are talking about buildings. The architecture used for some of these buildings is astonishing and unmatched by anything we build today. The memories associated with some these structures may be troubling, but the buildings themselves are historical landmarks. If we can use these buildings as educational tools or windows into the past, I’m all for it.

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