Children's Memorial Hospital: 131 Years of History

Children's Memorial Hospital: 131 Years of History

The new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago accepted its first patient on Saturday in the first step of a carefully orchestrated, three-year move. Children's Memorial Hospital has called Lincoln Park home for over 131 years, so I thought this week's 'Did You Know, Chicago?' should be dedicated to the history and future of this outstanding hospital.

Being a sick kid in the 1880s was pretty scary - children under five accounted for half of all deaths in Chicago. According to "An Element of Live," a history of Children's Memorial Hospital, home remedies — gin for scarlet fever, “goose grease” for whooping cough — were more common than a trip to see a doctor.

Children's Memorial Hospital was founded in 1882 as the Maurice Porter Memorial Hosptial, an eight-bed cottage at Halsted and Belden. The city's first hospital dedicated to children, it was started by wealthy, philanthropic widow Julia Foster Porter. Porter was a reclusive woman who wore all black, the result of losing her father, husband and son in the span of six years. She named the hospital after her firstborn son who died at 13 years old of acute rheumatism.

Foster purchased several lots at Fullerton and Orchard and began building a three-story brick hospital to house 20 beds. Over the next 100 years, the hospital underwent many expansions: in 1896, a new wing was added that included the first isolation ward and upped the bed count to 50; in 1908 the hospital purchased more land at Lincoln, Fullerton and Orchard for the Cribside Pavilion, adding 15 beds, a milk laboratory and an instruction room for mothers; in 1909 the hospital expanded to 108 beds; the Agnes Wilson Memorial Pavilion was built in 1912, adding two wings and 176 beds; in 1925, the Martha Wilson Memorial Pavilion was built at Orchard and Fullerton, adding 36 more beds; the Thomas J. Memorial Building was constructed in 1940; in 2004, the 52,000 square foot Children's Memorial Research Center was completed.

In 1931, the original Maurice Porter Memorial Hospital building was torn down to make way for the Nellie A. Black and James Deering buildings which served as housing for nurses and interns. Two more original buildings were torn down in 1960 to make way for  a new main hospital and a new street, called Children's Plaza, to provide easy access at Lincoln and Fullerton.

There was talk about moving the hospital downtown for many years, and in 2006 Children's announced plans to move to Streeterville. The move received a massive boost with a $100-million donation from another wealthy philanthropic widow, Ann Lurie.

Lurie is the widow of entrepreneur Robert "Bob" Lurie,  the partner of real estate magnate Sam Zell. Philanthropy has been her full-time job for more than 20 years, and she has given away more than $331 million to a variety of causes.

Buildings from the old hospital will be available for demolition in November. Plans have been drawn up for a retail corridor and apartment towers, and in five years the whole neighborhood should look very different.



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