The Pest House Medical Museum – Lynchburg, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

The Pest House Medical Museum

Old City Cemetery

A "hospital" where people went to be quarantined, die, and be buried in the yard. 


Lynchburg’s first “hospital,” the Pest (as in pestilence) House, was in actuality a quarantine house where people with contagious diseases would be placed away from the population. Many who entered the Pest House never recovered.

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, those infected with contagious diseases like smallpox, cholera, and scarlet fever, were quarantined in this wooden house. During the Civil War, Lynchburg was a hospital center, and the Pest House was used for quarantining Confederate soldiers. When a local doctor, John Jay Terrell, learned about the poor conditions at the hospital he took over its operations, introducing reforms that brought its mortality rate from 50 percent to just five percent.

In 1987, the small, white-frame building was moved from its original location to Old City Cemetery. Today you can see the Pest House just as it was in the mid-1800s when Dr. Terrell successfully treated Civil War veterans there. Be sure to see the “poison chest.”

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