If you think the NIMBY factor in Washington began with opposition to various current locations for a new prison, think again. NIMBY -- the acronym for "not in my back yard" -- was thriving here even before World War I.

The issue at the time was a site for what is now called the District of Columbia General Hospital. The people in central Northwest Washington simply didn't want a "pauper" hospital in their midst.

Their political pressure forced the District Commissioners, then the city's governing body, and Congress to move the site down next to the Anacostia River. Similar pressures, perhaps even magnified by home rule, have forced Mayor Marion Barry to choose an adjacent riverside site for the prison. It's safe to assume we haven't heard the last of the issue.

The deal that resulted in the hospital's erection on the banks of the Anacostia is, itself, interesting.

As far back as 1900, when Washington's poorest citizens were treated in the Washington Asylum on the Anacostia's bank, the commissioners bought nearly 37 acres of vacant land bounded by 14th, Upshur and Allison streets and by Georgia and Iowa avenues NW for a new hospital site. In 1906, a tuberculosis hospital was erected on part of the acreage. In 1914, Congress appropriated $15,000 to plan a full-service municipal hospital on Upshur Street.

According to the late historian Constance McLaughlin Green, bitter opposition by neighbors to the "pauper" hospital foiled the plan. District Commissioner Louis Brownlow hatched a scheme to win congressional approval for a new facility in Southeast: Name it for Sen. Jacob H. Gallinger (R-N.H.), himself a physician, who as Senate D.C. Committee chairman had strongly supported building the hospital. Gallinger died in 1918 after 28 years in Congress.

The plan worked, although Gallinger Hospital's main building wasn't erected until 1926. Some old wooden asylum buildings remained in use until then.

In 1948, according to a story in this newspaper written by reporter Sam Zagoria -- who recently ended a two-year tenure as the Post's ombudsman -- another district commissioner, Guy Mason, decided the hospital should have a local name. As a result, early in the 1950s, it became D.C. General.

And its neighbors, pointing to both the hospital and the nearby D.C. Jail, are now crying NIMBY about plans for the new prison. Remembering Jefferson

Today is Thomas Jefferson's birthday, and the third president, born 243 years ago in Old Shadwell, near Charlottesville, will be honored with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial in Washington that bears his name. Such ceremonies have been held annually since 1943, the year after the memorial opened, under sponsorship of the National Park Service and the D.C. Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

The program will begin at noon, with music by the U.S. Air Force band and a military salute by the Joint Services Color Guard. Scheduled participants include Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.) and Maj. Gen. John L. Ballantyne III, commander of the Military District of Washington.