Reviving a Legacy: Once a Servant to the Underserved, Old Cook County Hospital Will Once Again Bring Life to Chicago’s West Side

Chicago, IL | March 25, 2019

Harrison Square: Old Cook County Hospital

Constructed in 1913, the Old Cook County Hospital’s contributions to modern medicine are well-documented. County, as it came to be known, was one of the world’s first great teaching hospitals, home to the first blood bank, and the place where many now standard medical procedures were first created and perfected. However, County’s contributions and historical significance to Chicago’s minority communities are perhaps just as profound.

At the turn of the century, racial and wealth disparities dramatically affected the distribution and quality of healthcare for Chicago residents (although this is still largely an issue nationwide). From the beginning, Cook County Hospital opened its doors to the city’s poorest and most vulnerable who were largely excluded from other hospital systems. During the Great Migration when the city’s Black community grew from 2% of the total population to 33%, County and Provident Hospital were the only providers Black Chicagoans could turn to for care. By 1960, County was serving the Black and immigrant Mexican communities almost exclusively. During this decade, approximately 80% of Chicago’s Black births were at County.

County however was not always a beacon of hope for Chicago’s minority communities, as the hospital struggled with severely limited resources, overcrowding, and deteriorating infrastructure. County’s declining state was overlooked by officials because of the population it served. But hospital staff, many of whom came of age during the Civil Rights era, fought zealously to improve the quality of patient care. For many doctors and nurses, like Dr. David Ansell, author of County, the hospital not only offered an elite education, but the opportunity to eradicate the social inequalities plaguing the country’s healthcare system. Thanks in large part to the medical team’s tireless efforts, County was able to improve the lives of the minority communities it served despite its poor conditions.

Due to such conditions, the hospital ceased operations in 2002 and was replaced by John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital.

Today, Civic Health Development Group is redeveloping the historic site in the Illinois Medical District as part of the Harrison Square project. Through the project, Old Cook County Hospital will continue its legacy, bringing long-term career opportunities and substantial economic growth to the city’s West Side. Honoring the hospital’s dedication to bettering our community, Civic Health Development Group is committed to partnering with minority and women-owned Chicago businesses throughout the redevelopment process.

Civic Health Development Group is led by Chicago-based development firm Murphy Development Group  and includes MB Real Estate, Walsh Investors, Plenary Group, and Granite Companies. World-renowned architecture firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill are the architects for this project and Walsh Construction is the general contractor. 

Click here to learn more about Harrison Square Chicago.