Founded in 1909, Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center held a formal closing ceremony Wednesday as it prepares to cease operations next month.

The historic hospital has provided medical care for hundreds of thousands of soldiers since World War I, through the Vietnam War and - of course - the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Susan Eisenhower, who recalls having taken to her grandfather Dwight Eisenhower a birthday cake a few months before the former president's 1969 death at Walter Reed, on Wednesday lamented the closing of the medical center, which she called "an important part" of U.S. history.

Richard Nixon was hospitalized at Walter Reed for two weeks because of a staphylococcus infection while serving as Eisenhower's vice president.

U.S. newspapers on Wednesday recalled that Walter Reed was also the birthplace of many romances during the Vietnam War, when many of the nurses who worked at the facility married soldiers for whom they cared.

The hospital owes its name to Gen. Walter Reed (1851-1902), an Army doctor whose research gave a decisive impetus to the field of epidemiology.

A government commission ordered the hospital's closure in 2005, contending that the facilities were quite old and should be closed as part of a broader cost reduction campaign.

Two years later, an investigation performed by The Washington Post revealed a lack of attention to maintaining the facility and an enormous bureaucracy, a situation that spurred improvements both at Walter Reed and at the country's other military hospitals.