Mount Vernon Arsenal, which later became Searcy Hospital, was named one of America’s “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2019 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The site, located in the small town of Mount Vernon in northern Mobile County, was established as Mount Vernon Arsenal in the early 19th century. The arsenal is associated with the country’s earliest formal movement to produce permanent national military defense facilities.
The arsenal was a Confederate stronghold during the Civil War. Following the war, it was converted to barracks for the United States Infantry and later housed Native Americans like Apache leader Geronimo who were deemed prisoners of war despite never being charged with crimes.
The Army turned the site over to the state in 1895, and in 1900 it was converted to a mental health facility for African-American patients called Searcy Hospital. The mental health facility was in use for over 100 years — it officially closed its doors in 2012.
“The Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital compound is unlike any other collection of structures in the country,” said Lisa D. Jones, Executive Director of the Alabama Historical Commission. The numerous functions the site served throughout its 200 year operation mirror the history and landscape of the times, she said. “These are real places telling real stories, and they have a lot to offer each of us.”
The site is now empty, its buildings deteriorating and vulnerable to the elements. Twenty-seven of the 40 buildings on site have structural damage.
The Alabama Historical Commission and partners will be hosting a press conference on Thursday, June 20 at 10 a.m. at the McCafferty House on site at Searcy Hospital in reference to the “Most Endangered Historic Places” designation.