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Inova development could honor woman who pioneered Alexandria healthcare

The Inova At Landmark campus conceptual design (via Inova)

(Updated 12/8) A street near the planned Inova hospital anchoring the Landmark redevelopment could celebrate a woman who founded one of the city’s first hospitals.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously at a meeting last night approve of renaming Healthway Place to Julia Johns Place.

While Alexandria hosted 30 military hospitals during the Civil War, by the 1870s there was no central location to treat patients or enforce a quarantine, a nonprofit called Alexandria Celebrates Women wrote in the Alexandria Times. When a sailor arrived at Alexandria with a case of typhoid fever, fear of an outbreak prompted a local woman named Julia Johns to assemble a group of women to create a hospital for the city.

A charter was approved in 1872 and Johns leased a townhouse at the corner of Duke and South Fairfax streets. The hospital opened in 1873. The Alexandria Times story noted that the first surgery, the amputation of a railroad employee’s crushed leg, was performed on Christmas in 1882.

The hospital would grow to include the first nursing school in the area as well as the first outpatient treatment in the state. The Alexandria Infirmary was renamed the Alexandria Hospital in 1902 and later incorporated into INOVA Health System.

Johns died in 1883 and is buried at the Virginia Theological Seminary, not far from the current hospital. The original infirmary site was demolished in 1953; replaced with a small parking lot.

Planning Commission chair Nathan Macek said the name change had some behind-the-scenes prompting by city leadership.

“Part of this is based on some behind-the-scenes discussions I’ve been having over the last few days,” Macek said. “I think this is a much better fitting name, especially given the prominence of the institution — the hospital that will be on the street.”

Macek said the renamed street would also be one of the few in the city named in honor of a woman.

“I think it’s an opportunity to honor someone who had a founding role in the institution as well as a significant figure in Alexandria’s history and a woman,” Macek said. “We don’t have many streets named after women, so I think it’s fitting for a number of reasons.”

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