Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago (1964) Edo Belli, Belli & Belli, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1869 a handful of nuns from the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul left their order's headquarters in Emmitsburg, Maryland and headed west to Chicago. The order had been organized in the early 1800's by Elizabeth Ann Seton a native New Yorker who had converted to Catholicism in 1805, and who would go on to become the first native-born American to become a Roman Catholic saint. Her Sisters of Saint Joseph dedicated themselves not only to their church but also to the care of the poor and destitute, and in 1810 Seton decided that the St. Joseph sisters would hook-up with the similarly dedicated Sisters of Charity which had been founded in France in the 17th century. When the Maryland-based sisters arrived in Chicago they immediately set about the task of opening a hospital that would provide healthcare to all regardless of race, nationality, religion - or ability to pay - and began searching for a facility to practice in.

  [Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago, 2900 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

They found a house available for rent far outside the city limits in the suburb of Lake View, signed a three lease at $600 per year, and opened Provident Hospital. After just two years of providing care, the sisters, overrun with patients, were on the hunt for a much larger facility. They found a large vacant lot in a not very built-up section of Chicago at the northwest corner of Burling and Sophia (later Garfield, today's Dickens) Streets, and got to work raising money for a new hospital building. On a blistering hot day in August, 1871 the Roman Catholic Bishop of Chicago led a procession from the Church of the Holy Name at State and Cass (Wabash) Streets, on a several mile march across the city's dusty dirt roads to Burling and Sophia where a crowd of 10,000 people witnessed Bishop Thomas Foley lay the cornerstone of Saint Joseph Hospital.

  [Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago, Lake View, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The sisters had raised enough money to build the first section of what they hoped would one day be a three-wing hospital facility. The central four-story brick structure, topped-off by a prominent mansard roof, would cost in the neighborhood of $40,000 while an additional $40,000 would be needed to complete the other two wings. Construction on the mansard roof had just begun when a fire started far to the south of the building site on the night of October 8, 1871, and finally burnt itself out on October 10th just a few blocks east of the hospital's location. In the aftermath of the devastating blaze construction ground to a halt, but on April 29, 1872 the 95-foot wide by 50-foot deep hospital building was ready to receive its first patients.

  [Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There were wards for female and male patients containing four to eight beds each which ran $6/week. Eighteen private rooms were available for $10/week, attended by visiting hospital staff doctors. You could have a private room with your own private physician for an extra fee, along with additional up-charges for things like washing, linens, and medicines. Since the sister's mission was to provide care for all, you paid what you could, and if you had no funds, care was provided free. Needless to say money was always tight. However, as the population of the city grew around Saint Joseph's, so did donations, and the hospital plant itself. The two wings were built, the sisters got a dedicated dormitory building at the north edge of their property, another wing was built along the Burling Street property line, and the M.J. O'Malley Home was constructed across the street. A day nursery and the De Paul Settlement were established around the corner on Halsted Street, and by the mid-1950s the hospital was thriving but the building was aging, as was the neighborhood.

  [Saint Joseph Hospital, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the late 50's the area around Burling and Dickens was in decline - it was not the hot real estate commodity it is today. The Lincoln Park Conservation Association was working with the city to designate the community an urban renewal district up to the east side of Halsted Street, which included the hospital. The sisters seized the moment and decided the time had come to relocate once again and start anew. This time a large piece of vacant land was found on inner Lake Shore Drive just north of Diversey. The site had once been the home of Franz Thielmann's Family Resort. Thielmann purchased the recently constructed Fischer's Gardens in 1890, and for the next 20+ years Thielmann's provided summer concerts, beer, and access to Lincoln Park Beach. Back in Thilemann's day the lake ran along the west curb line of today's inner Drive, so you could walk directly out of the resort's east pavilion and dip your toe into the lake. The Daughters of Charity, who now ran the hospital and were based in St. Louis, hired Catholic archdiocese favorites Belli & Belli as their architects. Edo Belli had started his own firm after the Second World War, and his brother Joseph joined the architect as supervising construction manager not long after. The siblings had been designing and building schools and hospitals for the Roman Catholic archdiocese ever since Edo had met Chicago's archbishop Samuel Cardinal Stritch in the early 50's. The relationship with the sisters proved so beneficial that Belli & Belli established an office in Missouri, and Edo's sons still operate a multi-office firm to this day. The Belli brothers modernist interpretation for the Daughters of Charity's Saint Joseph Hospital opened in 1964, and the Maria Diaz Martinez Senior Apartments now sit on the site of the former Saint Joseph Hospital - right next to Oz Park.

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