Thursday, February 24, 2011

Michael Reese Hospital

Located on Chicago's Near South Side, just off of Lake Shore Drive, Michael Reese Hospital was a major research and teaching hospital, as well as being one of the largest in the city. Originally opened in 1880, the original hospital was named after real estate developer Michael Reese, who died in 1877 and left funds in his will for the development of a new hospital. This original building was demolished in 1905, to be replaced by a newer, larger building two years later.

As early as the 1940's, the Near South Side neighborhood was already starting to decline, but Reese, along with IIT and Mercy Catholic Hospital, opted to stay in the area and promote urban renewal rather than abandon the neighborhood. From the 50's on, Michael Reese Hospital purchased adjacent properties, eventually ending up with several clinics and pavilions on the campus. I remember seeing it when it was open, and it was a pretty big place.

By the 1990's, Reese had become a for-profit hospital, and this presaged the beginning of the end for the facility. Running costs, particularly physical plant costs, were considerably higher than newer, more modern hospitals, and many of the older buildings fell into disuse and disrepair. Hospital records were stored on pallets in unused clinics, and by 2007 Michael Reese had reduced capacity to just 150 beds. By 2008 Reese was closed for good.

Being over a century old, the Reese campus has-or had-many buildings of architectural interest. The older buildings, particularly the Rosthchild Nurses' Residence and the main hospital building boasted lots of ornate architectural detail, particularly in the main building's common areas. The campus' signature feature, however, are the late 40's additions designed to a master plan devised by Walter Gropius. Most of the new buildings, while designed by local Chiacgo architects, show a strong Gropius influence. Demolition of the campus started in 2009, in preparation for the-since canceled-2016 Chicago Olympics. The Michael Reese property was to be the Olympic Village.

This is the back side of the main building, visible from across the old South Shore tracks in back of McCormick Place.

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