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Walter Reed Birthplace

Visit by Appointment

4021 Hickory Fork Road, Gloucester, VA 23061 

Built prior to 1850, this small, two-room loft house was briefly home to the family of Dr. Walter Reed, famous U. S. Army physician and medical hero of the Spanish-American War. He was born here on September 13, 1851. Reed's father, a Methodist minister, moved his family into the small cottage when he was first transferred to Gloucester. They remained here until a new parsonage was completed in 1852. The house is now operated as a museum by the Gloucester Preservation Foundation. 

After two years of classes at the University of Virginia, Reed completed the M.D. degree in 1869. He married Emilie Lawrence on April 26, 1876 and took her West with him. Later, Emilie would give birth to a son and a daughter.

Reed joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps as an assistant surgeon because of professional opportunities. He spent much of his Army career until 1893 at different postings in the American West, at one point looking after several hundred Apache Native Americans, including Geronimo. During one of his last tours, he completed advanced coursework in pathology and bacteriology in the Johns Hopkins University Hospital Pathology Laboratory. 

Reed joined the faculty of the George Washington University School of Medicine and the newly-opened Army Medical School in Washington, D.C. in 1893, where he held the professorship of Bacteriology and Clinical Microscopy. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he actively pursued medical research projects. 

In 1896 Reed distinguished himself as a medical investigator by proving that yellow fever among enlisted men stationed near the Potomac River wasn't a result from drinking the river water. He showed officials that the enlisted men who got yellow fever had a habit of taking trails through the local swampy woods at night. 

During Reed's tenure with the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba, the board conducted many of its dramatic series of experiments at Camp Lazear. The risky but fruitful research work done under Reed’s leadership was largely responsible for stemming the mortality rates from yellow fever during the building of the Panama Canal. 

In November 1902, Reed's appendix ruptured; he died on November 22, 1902, at age 51. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.