Cook County, Illinois
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Genealogy and History

History of Hospitals in Cook County


The following information can be found at, written by Paul A. Buelow
Pictures and formatting have been added by © Illinois Genealogy Trails

Rush physicians soon incorporated another general hospital, called the Illinois General Hospital of the Lakes, which opened in 1850 with 12 beds in the old Lake House Hotel at Rush and North Water Streets. The charge was three dollars per week per patient. The doctors asked the Sisters of Mercy, a Roman Catholic order, to provide nursing care, and in the spring of 1851 transferred control to the Sisters. With a new charter, the hospital was renamed Mercy Hospital. Cook County supervisors paid Mercy to care for county patients. The oldest continuously running hospital in Chicago, it moved in 1853 to a new building at Wabash and Van Buren and in 1863 was relocated to its present campus at 26th and Calumet.

mercy hospital

Mercy Hospital
2537 South Prairie Avenue

Rush College retained the privilege of teaching medical students there until 1859, when Mercy switched affiliation to the Chicago Medical School (later known as Northwestern University Medical School).

Medical sectarians, some with unorthodox therapeutic practices, founded their own hospitals, such as the Hahnemann Hospital, which opened in the early 1850s.......

Friction between the homeopath and "regular" medical practitioners became a political battle in 1857, when the former sought representation on the medical staff of what was to be the new city hospital at 18th and LaSalle streets.

The argument prevented the institution from opening until 1859, when Rush faculty members rented it for use as a private hospital. In 1862, the U.S. Army commandeered it for a military hospital, until the Civil War ended and the county leased it. Cook County finally had a relatively permanent hospital.

As the number of charity cases grew, however, the old building proved too small, and
County Hospital moved to new pavilions at the present site at Wood and Harrison Streets in 1876. Larger structures replaced these beginning in 1912, and these in turn were replaced in the first years of the twenty-first century.

cook county hospital
Exterior view of Cook County Hospital, looking down a street toward the front and entrance of the hospital building located on West Harrison Street in the Near West Side community area of Chicago, Illinois.

In 1847 a Chicago physician built a private retreat for the insane just north of the city, and in 1854, when the county moved its almshouse to a site known as "Dunning”, 12 miles northwest of the city, an asylum was among the buildings constructed. Authorities transferred this asylum, the Cook County Hospital for the Insane, to the care of the state of Illinois in 1912, and the name changed to Chicago State Hospital.

Dunning patients
Women patients at Chicago State Hospital
(aka Dunning Mental Institute)

Main Office
Cook County Institution
Dunning, IL

Institutional efforts against tuberculosis began with the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute, which established the Edward Sanatorium in 1907.

edward sanitorium
Edward Sanatorium, 1916 (Naperville, IL)

The Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, funded by the city, opened in 1915 at Crawford and Bryn Mawr Avenues.

tb sanitarium
Exterior view of several of the cottages on the grounds of the Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, located at North Crawford and West Bryn Mawr Avenues in the North Park community area of Chicago, Illinois. The sanitarium was opened to the public on February 16, 1915.

Vets hospital
Exterior view of the U. S. Veterans Hospital in North Chicago, Illinois

To care for sick and injured sailors who worked on the Great Lakes, the federal government set up a hospital in 1852 on the grounds of Fort Dearborn. It later moved north of the city to what became the Uptown neighborhood.

After World War I, the United States Public Health Service established several large hospitals, forerunners of present-day Veteran's Hospitals. The
Hines facility in Maywood was among the largest

speedway hospital
9th Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Broadview, Illinois
aka Speedway Hospital
[built upon a old racetrack]

St. Luke's Hospital, a charity of Grace Episcopal Church on the Near South Side, began in 1865 in a small frame structure at 8th and State Streets, eventually moving into larger buildings on south Indiana and Michigan Avenues. The hospital remained at that site for almost a century, merging in 1956 with Presbyterian Hospital and Rush Medical College on the Near West Side.

st luke's
1439 S. Michigan Avenue

Lutheran pastor William Passavant established the 15-bed Deaconess Hospital at Dearborn and Ontario Streets in 1865. Destroyed by the 1871 fire, in 1884 it reopened at Dearborn and Superior as the Emergency Hospital, later named Passavant after its founder.
In 1920, Northwestern University Medical School adopted Emergency as a site for clinical instruction. Methodist Wesley Memorial Hospital, established in 1888, joined Passavant as part of Northwestern's Chicago campus in 1941.
The Alexian Brothers, a Roman Catholic male nursing order originating during the bubonic plague of the thirteenth century, started a small hospital for males in 1866. Its first substantial building was at Dearborn and Schiller. After two years, Alexian moved to larger quarters at North and Franklin. It rebuilt after the fire, moving in 1896 to Belden and Racine and then to Elk Grove Village in 1966.

Largest Privately Owned Hospital in United States.- Exclusively for Male patients.

The Sisters of Charity began St. Joseph's Hospital in Lake View in 1868. It now serves the community from a modern high-rise building at Diversey Avenue near the lake. (2900 N. Lake Shore)

Other early Catholic hospitals were
St. Elizabeth's, founded near Western and Division in 1887 by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, established in 1894 by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in the same neighborhood. St. Mary's served the Polish-speaking immigrant community. (note: 2233 W. Division St)

Early Chicago Jews founded a hospital at LaSalle and Schiller in 1866. Like nearby Alexian Brothers, this institution fell victim to the fire, but
Jewish Hospital did not rebuild immediately. The family of philanthropist Michael Reese made large contributions, and the hospital bearing his name arose in 1882 at Ellis Avenue and 29th Street (Douglas Community area), becoming by 1950 the largest charity-sponsored hospital in Chicago, with 718 beds. The increasing population of Jews on Chicago's Near Southwest Side prompted the opening of Mt. Sinai Hospital near Douglas Park in 1919 (note: 2750 W. 15th Pl).

The influx of German immigrants into the Chicago area led to the 1883 founding of the German Hospital.

It was renamed
Grant Hospital during World War I.

german hospital
German Hospital

Nurses at the German Hospital.

They are (left to right) [?] Trapp, Miss Marie Scheisler, Miss Cora Tessman, Miss Freida Lawson, and Miss Nina Veihl.


Baptists established the Chicago Baptist Hospital in 1891, and Methodists founded Bethany Methodist.
By 1897, Lutherans had built Augustana, Swedish Covenant, the Norwegian-American Hospital, and the Lutheran Deaconess Home and Hospital (closed c. 1958). Early twentieth-century Catholic groups started St. Anne's (located at 4950 W. Thomas St), St. Bernard's (located at 6337 S. Harvard Ave), and Columbus hospitals.

augustana hospital
Augustana Hospital

Several Chicago hospitals have aimed at specific types of patients.

The Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary began in 1858 under the direction of ophthalmologist Edward Lorenzo Holmes.

In 1865, Mary Harris Thompson founded the Chicago Hospital for Women and Children, chiefly to serve widows and orphans of Civil War victims. Renamed the Mary Thompson Hospital when she died in 1895, it opened on Rush Street, then moved to West Adams Street.

dr mary thompson hospital
Exterior view of Dr. Mary Thompson Hospital for Women and Children, located at 1712 West Adams Street in the Near West Side community area of Chicago, Illinois.

Julia F. Porter endowed the Maurice Porter Memorial Free Hospital for Children in 1882 in memory of her son. In 1903 it took the name Children's Memorial.

children's memorial
Children's Memorial Hospital
The hospital was located at 735 Fullerton Avenue in the Lincoln Park community area of Chicago, Illinois.

Joseph B. De Lee founded the
Chicago Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary in 1895 in a tenement house on Maxwell Street in an effort to lower the high neonatal mortality rates. [Note: Later constructed at 5038 South Vincennes, 1929; Later located at 5845 S. Maryland)]

Martha Washington Hospital advertised itself as a haven for alcoholics, and the Frances E. Willard National Temperance Hospital, named after the famous temperance advocate from Evanston, was for nondrinkers. It was dedicated to proving that diseases could be cured without the use of alcohol or alcohol-based medicines.

Until the mid-twentieth century, many Chicago hospitals refused to treat African American patients or employ black doctors and nurses. Daniel Hale Williams, one of the first African American surgeons in Chicago, organized Provident Hospital in 1891 in an effort to ensure hospital services to African Americans in Chicago and to provide black health care workers a place to practice and learn.

provident hospital

Provident Hospital


Beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century, groups of physicians and physician-entrepreneurs established for-profit hospitals such as the Lakeside Hospital, Garfield Park Hospital, Westside Hospital, and Jefferson Park Hospital. Later examples of this type included North Chicago, Washington Park, Ravenswood, South Shore, Washington Boulevard, Burnside, Chicago General, John B. Murphy, and Belmont hospitals. Most of these were small and some lasted only a few years. Others became nonprofit institutions and continued to serve without investor ownership.

By 1950, with a population of 3.6 million, Chicago had 84 hospitals, including public and private sanatoria. The majority were nonprofit, receiving major funding from patient fees (often at least partly paid by insurance), donations, and endowments.

Sources: --
written by Paul A. Buelow
Pictures are added by Illinois Genealogy Trails and are from the Library of Congress website