Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Hoff General Hospital


US Army Corps of Engineers History

The former Hoff General Hospital was located on Hollister Avenue (now known as State Street), near the northwestern city limits of Santa Barbara, in Goleta, California.

The War Department acquired 46.33 acres by condemnation on 19 July 1943. Of this 46.33 acres, a total of 46.13 acres were acquired in fee and 0.20 acre was an easement.

Hoff General Hospital consisted of more than 100 temporary buildings, a commissary, mess halls, linen supply depot, surgical and medical wards, and personnel barracks, supporting a 1,300-bed hospital facility. Its 46 acre had a network of more than a mile of covered sidewalks, three miles of utility lines, and a mile of gas piping. During the four years of its operation, Hoff treated more than 27,500 military patients.

The site was declared surplus by the War Department and turned over to the Federal Public Housing Authority for disposal on 30 January 1946. The entire area of 46.33 acres was conveyed to the County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority by deed dated 14 June 1946. Hoff's substandard wards and barracks were moved to places like Pilgrim Terrace and Turnpike Road to give a few years' service in relieving Santa Barbara's severe postwar housing shortage. The Santa Barbara Fire Department used the hospital's fire station for its Engine Company Number 6.

The County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority conveyed 35.08 acres to the City of Santa Barbara by quitclaim deed dated 24 April 1956. There were no restrictions as to 26.02 acres which are presently a portion of Santa Barbara Municipal Golf Course. The deed did restrict use of 9.06 acres to park or single family residence use. The 9.06 acres are now McKenzie Park. There were no restoration provisions or recapture clauses. The U.S. Army Reserve Center owns and uses 2.05 acres, having acquired it from the County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority in 1955. The County of Santa Barbara Road Department owns 9.2 acres.

Few traces remain of Hoff General Hospital. The last of the war surplus hospital buildings were bulldozed in 1960 to make way for MacKenzie Park. The chapel was moved to San Roque Church to serve as a parish house. The hospital administration building now houses the Army Reserve Center at 3227 State Street. The hospital's water supply tank still stands on Las Positas Road near the entrance to McCaw Avenue. Although owned by the city water department, it is no longer in service. A concrete wall at the base of the hill overlooking MacKenzie Park was part of a never-completed therapeutic swimming tank under construction at war's end.

Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers


Hoff General Hospital
By Justin M. Ruhge

Named in honor of General John Van Rensselaer Hoff, who was born in New York State on April 7,1848. He graduated in Medicine at Albany Medical College in 1871 and at Columbia in 1874. He served as. an Army surgeon on the American western frontier and overseas. In 1902 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He retired from active duty in 1912.

As the clouds of war loomed ever darker in Europe in 1939, the U.S. started to make plans for war. A draft was begun, war materials were designed and their production planned. Army and Navy training bases were laid out and construction on them was begun as early as 1940. The products of war are casualties, and hopefully, victory. Along with the development of training bases, the War Department planned and built a series of temporary hospitals to provide repair and recovery of the human casualties of the coming war. Santa Barbara was the location of one of many of these hospitals. While not as elaborate and extensive as the four training bases in Santa Barbara County, this hospital had, nevertheless, a large impact on this community for nine years and performed an important humanitarian service to thousands of servicemen. It also acted as a training facility for hundreds of nurses and doctors who served overseas. The hospital was known as Hoff General Hospital and was located at "Hoff Heights," above present-day Loreto Plaza, the General John C. Fremont U.S. Army Reserve Center and MacKenzie Park locations. The site straddled the present-day Las Positas at State Street intersection

The majority of the buildings were erected on what was Earle Ovington's Casa Loma Field. The field was a cleared grassy area with a hangar for Ovington's personal aircraft. The location was well known to many private pilots who dropped in often. Such aviation celebrities as Charles Lindbergh (flying a replica, not his original Spirit of St. Louis), Jimmy Doolittle (the future Tokyo raider), Amelia Earhart, Hap Arnold, the father of the U.S. Air Force and others were attracted to what was Santa Barbara's only government-listed airstrip at the time. Las Positas Street ended at the property line. The hangar was moved to a new location an Hollister in Old Town Goleta, and the Field leveled prior to the construction of the hospital.

Construction began on December 13, 1940, a year before the declaration of war. The Hospital grounds covered 58 acres and included 102 buildings with a floor area of 330,467 square feet. A 15-acre farm was located nearby.

The work began during a record rain year; a total of 49 inches of rain fell in 1940-1941. Work was often conducted in knee-deep mud. The buildings were of temporary wood frame, cantonment-type construction. No attempt was made to conform to local building codes. All buildings were connected by covered walkways and ramps so wheelchairs could be used between buildings.

The task of constructing this hospital in 11 months was monumental considering the weather and the size of the facility. The construction was a boon to the Santa Barbara community, which was still under the lingering effects of the Depression. Construction proceeded on a six-day-a-week basis at ten hours a day. Many who worked in Santa Barbara during the week pitched in on Saturdays, also. At about the same time the Hospital was being built, work started on Camp Cooke and the Marine Base in Goleta, and the Air Base in Santa Maria. In addition to the buildings was the installation of the extensive utilities to support them. A central power plant and fire station were a part of the Hospital. The Hospital was fenced and access controlled through a guardhouse and passes. In 1945, a concrete water tank and swimming pool were started but never completed.

The construction of Hoff Hospital was rushed to completion to meet a date in history, as if someone knew the date.

Operations began at the Hospital on March 1, 1941. In 1941 the roster listed 350 officers and enlisted men and women. The first commanding officer was Colonel W. H. Allen.
Patients were received from overseas theaters of operations, especially through the ports of debarkation at San Francisco and Wilmington. The Air Transport Command also received many overseas patients from all parts of the country through air evacuation. The hospital planes were landed at the Marine Air Base at Goleta and evacuated to this Hospital by ambulance. The Southern Pacific Railroad was one-half mile from Hoff and patients arriving by train were passed through windows on stretchers to waiting ambulances. In June 1943 the Hospital was expanded from 750 to 1,061 beds. In January 1945 this was increased to 1,141 beds.

Patients admitted were divided into three groups - Surgical, Hard of Hearing and Medical. The Surgical and Hard of Hearing patients constituted the largest part of admissions. Their transfer was on a bed-allotment basis. This Hospital also served as a station hospital for the detachment personnel and returnees of the Army Ground and Surface Forces Redistribution Station, 1916, SCV, in Santa Barbara. In 1945, the peak year of service, some 6,441 patients were admitted

The Hospital became a training facility for military nurses and doctors.

It was a center of rehabilitation with many sports and crafts; and often visited by Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. The Hospital had its local newspaper called Hofflights.

Thousands of servicemen spent long days recovering from wounds and battle damage and while doing so enjoyed the great Southern California atmosphere with their families and wives. There were many war stories by men who had "seen it all in Europe and the Pacific." Most patients at Hoff ended their days with the military by mustering out and returning to private life as recovered or disabled citizens. Some of these married local women and stayed on in Santa Barbara, perhaps to play lawn bowls and golf on the site of Hoff General Hospital.

Following V-J day and the evacuation of most of the battle casualties to the United States, there was no longer a need for all existing general hospitals. Hoff Hospital was closed on November 23, 1945. The massive tasks of equipment removal, crating and shipping were accomplished with the help of 250 German prisoners shipped in from Camp Cooke and billeted in the empty barracks of the Hospital.

Almost suddenly, seemingly without warning, the work of a small city of people was ended. The purpose of the Hospital no longer existed and all those who had identified with its life were gone. Only memories remained in the minds of those who were now scattered all over the country. The last commanding officer was Major F. W. Lampert who took over on January 15, 1946 to oversee the Hospital closing.

The years following the close of the Hospital were almost as momentous for Santa Barbara as the war years were. Many soldiers and their families discovered Santa Barbara and decided to live there. Others decided to attend college on the G. I. Bill. This large influx of new "pilgrims" presented Santa Barbara with a major housing shortage. A solution was looking the town fathers in the face - take over the hospital and use the buildings for housing. The Hospital was turned over to the Federal Housing Authority early in 1946. The City acquired 70 buildings of the Hospital in May 1946. Thirty-five units were to be used for City housing and 35 for Santa Barbara College students. $64,652 was expended by the City to convert the open barracks to student and family apartments, which were then rented for $31 to $36 a month. Many local area residents had the memorable experience of starting life in Santa Barbara in one of these barracks' conversions.

The Hospital Chapel was purchased by the Santa Barbara Mission Church and moved to Calle Pinon for the San Roque Catholic Church. The building was completely remodeled to eliminate its barrack's look.

By 1954, Las Positas Road was pushed through to State Street and the remainder of the hospital buildings torn down or moved to make room for the expansion of the Community Golf Course, which opened in 1958. Today the only remaining artifact from the original Army hospital facilities is the concrete water tank. The tank is used to store what most cities have a lot of - paper records - to the ceiling.

A historic site marker for the Hoff General Army Hospital has been erected by the City of Santa Barbara and the Goleta Valley Historical Society.

Hoff General Hospital under construction.

Colonel John van Rennselaer Hoff

John van Rennselaer Hoff was born at Mt. Morris, N. Y., on April 11, 1848, the son of Colonel Alexander H. Hoff. He received his B.A. degree in 1871 and the M. A. degree in 1874 from Union University, and his M. D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1874. From 1874 until 1879 he served at posts on the Western frontier in Nebraska and Wyoming. In 1882 he was post surgeon at Alcatraz Island, and then relieved Surgeon George M. Sternberg at Fort Mason in 1884. In 1886 Hoff took a year's leave abroad and studied at the University of Vienna. On return to the United States, he organized the first detachment of the newly-authorized hospital corps at Fort Reno, Indian territory, and then became post surgeon at Fort Riley. He organized the first company of instruction for the hospital corps and wrote the first drill regulations for those units while at Fort Riley.

In November, 1890, Hoff took the field with eight troops of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment and participated in the last battle of the Indian wars. His gallantry was noted in Gen. Order No. 100: "Major John Van R. Hoff, Surgeon, U. S. Army, for conspicuous bravery and coolness under fire in caring for the wounded in action against hostile Sioux Indians, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota." As evidence that service on the frontier at that time was not a sinecure, it should be noted that immediately on his return to Fort Riley from this battle he was ordered to proceed to Florence, Kansas, to care for troopers of the Seventh cavalry who had been injured in a railroad accident at that point. On June 15, 1891, Hoff was promoted to major and surgeon. In 1892 the cavalry and light artillery school was officially established by War Department General Order No. 17, although academic work did not begin until 1893. In that year Hoff was transferred, and subsequent tours included the position of chief surgeon in Third Army Corps, Department of Puerto Rico, U. S. Forces in China, Department of The Lakes, Department of the Missouri, Department of the Philippines, and Department of the East. In addition, Hoff found opportunity to be an instructor in ophthalmology at the University of California, a professor at the Army Medical School, Instructor at the General Staff College, and professor of military sanitation at the University of Nebraska.

Hoff was an observer in the Russo-Japanese war. For several years he was editor of The Military Surgeon and was the third president of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of volunteers in May, 1898, and promoted to colonel and assistant surgeon general in 1905. He retired April 11, 1912, but was assigned to active duty in the office of the surgeon general in 1916. Hoff was a recognized pioneer in the military science of army field medicine. While at Fort Riley, Hoff's medical and teaching staff included First Lieutenants and Assistant. Surgeons Benjamin Brooke, Joseph Taylor Clarke, Henry C. Fisher, James Denver Glennan, Merritte Weber Ireland, Frank Royer Keefer, and Francis Anderson Winter. Doctor Hoff died in 1920.


Army Units Assigned to Hoff General Hospital

 Data Source


 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
Army Service Forces:
  • Medical Officer Replacement Pool
  • 1970th Service Command Unit (Hoff General Hospital)
 Army of the United States Station List  7 April 1945
Army Service Forces:
  • Medical Department Officer Replacement Pool
    • Detachment 7, 9950th Surgeon Generals Office Technical Service Unit (Medical Department Officer Replacement Pool)
  • Service School for Medical Officers
  • 27th Women's Army Corps Hospital Company (Zone of the Interior)
  • 1970th Service Command Unit (Hoff General Hospital)
 Army of the United States Station List  7 May 1946
Army Service Forces:
  • 1986th Service Command Unit (Station Complement)
AAF - Army Air Forces units | AGF - Army Ground Forces unit | ASF - Army Service Forces units | WDC - Western Defense Command units


US Army Corps of Engineers Maps


Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, 1945
  • Normal Bed Capacity:
  • Capacity:
  • Acreage
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  • Cost to Government Since 1 July 1940:
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    Updated 8 February 2016