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In 1852, construction began on a three-story, octagonal-shaped mansion overlooking Lake Monona on Spaight Street. The home was owned by former Wisconsin Governor, Leonard Farwell (1852-1854), who sold the property in 1860 to a group of investors from Milwaukee. Today, that building no longer stands and the only physical memory of what was to become the Harvey Hospital and the Soldiers’ Orphan Home is a historic marker that reads: “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.”


  • Stereoview of Harvey Hospital Soldiers and Orphans Home. Gathered in front of the Home are children posing in front of the Home.
  • Portrait of Mrs. Cordelia Perrine Harvey, the wife of former Wisconsin Governor, Louis P. Harvey.
  • Harvey Hospital historical site sign
  • Drawing of Harvey Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin, sent to Mrs. Cordelia Harvey, the first superintendent of the hospital, and of the orphanage that was later established there. In the drawing, the Home is featured with soldiers seated and standing on the porch while civilians walk past.
  • Note from Dr. Culbertson, presenting the drawing to Cordelia Harvey, the first superintendent of the Wisconsin Soldiers’ Orphan’s Home in Madison, given in thanks for her work for soldiers and their orphans. Also indicated is the donation of the drawing to the GAR by Mrs. Harvey’s niece.
  • Front view of the former site of Harvey Hospital
  • Side view of the former site of Harvey Hospital

Following Governor Harvey’s untimely death in 1862 (making him Wisconsin’s shortest-serving Governor), Cordelia Harvey took up her husband’s task of advocating for wounded soldiers from Wisconsin to return to the state to convalesce. She was appointed the state sanitary agent in late 1862 and, by 1863, had secured the building on Spaight Street for this exact purpose (President Lincoln backed this project after being personally petitioned by Cordelia). Between 1863 and the end of the Civil War in 1865, more than 630 soldiers recovered from battle in, what was then called, Harvey Hospital. 

After the war, it was apparent to Cordelia that the war-orphaned children of Wisconsin needed care. In 1866, through private donations and a state purchase of the land surrounding Harvey Hospital, the Soldiers’ Orphan Home opened. Cordelia was appointed the first superintendent of the home. By the time it closed in 1875, the Soldiers’ Orphan Home cared for and raised 683 children.  

The above mentioned historical marker was dedicated in 1908 by the school children of Madison, who were invited to donate between one and five cents toward the cost of the memorial. Attorney General Frank L. Gilbert, a former orphan of the home, was asked to deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of Madisonians. The historical marker, on the East corner of Spaight and Brearly Streets, can be visited today.  

 “Soldiers Orphan Home, Farwell House.” Wisconsin Historical Society, Online. Accessed 3 June 2020. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Image/IM10028

 Ellerkamp, Peggy and Gerhard. “Harvey Hospital Marker.” Historic Madison, Inc. of Wisconsin. Online. Accessed 2 June 2020. https://www.historicmadison.org/Madison's%20Past/connectingwithourpast/harveyhospitalmarker.html 

“Harvey, Gov. Louis P. (1820-1862): Wisconsin Civil War Officer, Wisconsin Governor.” Online. Accessed 2 June 2020. Wisconsin Historical Society. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS1621

“Soldiers Orphan Home, Farwell House.”

 Harvey, Cordelia (1824-1895): Civil War Philanthropist, Wisconsin First Lady, Nurse, and Teacher.” Wisconsin Historical Society. Online. Accessed 3 June 2020. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS1620

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Charles C. Dow, Papers and photographs, 1861-1996. WVM Mss 1065. Wisconsin Veterans Museum (Madison, Wis).

Portrait, Mrs. Cordelia Perrine Harvey, V2013.054.5. Wisconsin Veterans Museum (Madison, Wis).

Olson, Michael G. Harvey Hospita Historical site Sign. May 26, 2020, Madison.

Harvey Hospital drawing, 1865. WVM Mss 1903. Wisconsin Veterans Museum (Madison, Wis).

Harvey Hospital drawing, 1865. WVM Mss 1903. Wisconsin Veterans Museum (Madison, Wis).

Olson, Michael G. Former Site of Harvey Hospital.. May 26, 2020, Madison.

Olson, Michael G. Former Site of Harvey Hospital. May 26, 2020, Madison.