Old Cook County Hospital Rehabilitated

Quick Stats

  • LOCATION: 1835 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, Cook County
  • BUILT: 1913
  • ARCHITECTURE: Classical Revival
  • CURRENT USE: Chicago Medical Center Hotel, Hyatt House Chicago
  • DESIGNATIONS: National Register of Historic Places (2006)
  • LANDMARKS ILLINOIS PROGRAMS & AWARDS: 2020 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award Recipient. Civic Health Development Group, the development team behind the transformation of the former hospital won an Award for Adaptive Reuse. In 2018, Landmarks Illinois also honored Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at the Legendary Landmarks Celebration for her efforts to save the building. A year later, in 2019, Landmarks Illinois honored Murphy Development Group for its preservation efforts at the building.

(Photo credit: MacRostie Historic Advisors)

Historic Significance

In 1915, Cook County paid $3.5 million—$590 million in today’s dollars—to construct a new, state-of-the-art public hospital on the Near West Side of Chicago to help serve the city’s growing Eastern European immigrant population. The hospital’s two-block long, eight-story façade was one of the most majestic in the city, executed in the Beaux Arts classical style and replete with monumental columns, figures of lions and cupids and a wealth of other terra cotta and granite ornament. Later additions expanded the size of the building to 3,000 beds. The teaching hospital quickly became known for its innovations in the medical profession, including the nation’s first blood bank and the discovery of sickle cell anemia. Its surroundings were beautified during the 1940s, when a park was created directly across Harrison Street from the hospital.

(Photo credit: Liz Chilsen)

Threats to building over the past two decades

In 1998, John Stronger County Hospital broke ground on a new $550 million construction just south of the historic Cook County Hospital. Although the county would first spend millions on asbestos cleanup, it planned to raze the hospital by 2003 and build a new park on the site. Meanwhile, the master plan called for the existing tree-filled park to be replaced with another new building – a use for which had yet to be defined.

Landmarks Illinois quickly pushed for the consideration of other uses for the historic building, meeting with local officials to encourage a feasibility study that would help determine the reuse potential of Cook County Hospital. Landmarks Illinois also listed Cook County Hospital on its Most Endangered list for the first time in 2001 to help bring public attention to the issue. Such advocacy efforts convinced the Cook County Board to delay the 2003 demolition. The fate of the hospital, however, remained far from certain, leading Landmarks Illinois to list the structure on its Most Endangered list three additional times in 2003, 2004 and 2005. To date, saving Old Cook County Hospital has been Landmarks Illinois’ longest advocacy effort for a single building. Preservation Chicago also included the building on its 2003 and 2004 “Chicago 7 Most Endangered” list, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation called attention to it on its 2004 America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

In 2003, after urging the county for several years to consider reuse options, Landmarks Illinois released its own Reuse Plan for Cook County Hospital. It called for private redevelopment of the building and included detailed plans and cost estimates for the restoration work. The plan was based on in-depth conversations with developers, architects and market specialists, all of whom agreed that “throwing” away the former Cook County Hospital made poor economic sense. The report concluded that the steel-frame building remained structurally sound, and its distinctive layout lent itself well to a range of uses. Further, a wide variety of preservation and affordable housing incentives, plus the savings from not having to demolish the former hospital, could be used to make up the difference between rehabilitation costs and income. Landmarks Illinois met with every member of the Cook County Board to share these findings, highlighting the economic development potential and cultural importance of this landmark building.

Over the following years, Landmarks Illinois continued to advocate for reuse and stave off new efforts toward demolition. LI testified before the Cook County Board, prepared revised reuse plans, provided examples of other hospital reuse models successful throughout the nation, met with county and local officials, wrote Op-Eds and worked with the media to bring attention to the plight of this “Great Lady of Harrison Street.” Landmarks Illinois also joined with local advocates and supportive county board members to help add Cook County Hospital to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, enabling the use of Federal Historic Tax Credits for redevelopment.

(Pictured: Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera tours the halls of the former hospital in 2014, years before it would be rehabilitated. Credit: Jack Tribbia.)

Preservation Efforts

Thanks to this continued advocacy, the support of the community and local leadership efforts, Old Cook County Hospital was put on the path toward rehabilitation and reuse when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced an invitation charrette process to “unlock the value” of Old Cook County Hospital. Landmarks Illinois, with several other local organizations, participated to demonstrate, once again, the viability of reuse. The charrette resulted in a county RFP process. In 2016, Preckwinkle announced a successful bidder, Murphy Development Group, and a development plan for the historic site. On June 15, 2018, restoration and redevelopment broke ground on the historic hospital. Present at the groundbreaking ceremony were Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, several Chicago alderman and Cook County commissioners as well as Landmarks Illinois’ President and CEO Bonnie McDonald and Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera.

“This beautiful historic building has sat empty and unused for far too long,” said Preckwinkle of the restoration. “This project creates historic and lasting urban transformation in the heart of our County.”

After nearly two decades of vacancy, Chicago’s Cook County Hospital was restored and redeveloped into a mixed-use property featuring a 210-room Hyatt Place/Hyatt House hotel, accompanied by 75,000 square feet of medical office space and 25,000 square feet of retail space. This marks the completion of Phase 1 in an overall, four-phase redevelopment plan for what will be called Harrison Square. Civic Health Development Group (CHDG) and Chicago-based developer John T. Murphy led the the massive $140 million rehabilitation and redevelopment.  The adaptive use project is especially astounding given the size of the facility and the degree of the former hospital building’s deterioration. The former hospital now provides economic activity, jobs and a much needed respite for staff and visitors in the medical district.

Among Landmarks Illinois’ preservation partners during the 22-year effort to save Old Cook County Hospital is Joe Antunovich and his firm Antunovich Associates, which put thousands of pro-bono hours into producing multiple reuse studies for the building and attended dozens of public hearings alongside Landmarks Illinois staff. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin also should be credited for being a strong advocate for the building’s reuse and for pushing his colleagues to change their minds on demolition. Additionally, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was monumental in negotiating and ensuring a preservation path forward for the historic structure. Landmarks Illinois will always be grateful to her and her team.

“It’s hugely gratifying to see over 20 years of advocacy pay off,” said Landmarks Illinois Director of Advocacy Lisa DiChiera, who played an active part of the decades-long process of preserving the building. “Many individuals put their heart and soul into this long effort, and I am so happy to mark this milestone with them.”

(Photo credit: MacRostie Historic Advisors)


Development Team: Civic Health Development Group

  • John Murphy, Murphy Development Group
  • Walsh Investors
  • MB Real Estate
  • Plenary Group

General Contractor: Walsh Construction

Design Team:

  • SOM
  • Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
  • KOO
  • Engage Civil Inc.
  • Rubinos & Mesia Engineers Inc.

Historic Preservation Consultant: MacRostie Historic Advisors LLC



“The old Cook County Hospital is rich in history, having served our community and nation for over a century, while at the same time being a fountain of medical research, innovation and advancements,” said Dan Walsh, Co-chairman of The Walsh Group. “The Walsh Group is proud to have played a lead role in saving and transforming this unique historic structure, and delivering a reborn building that welcomes visitors and economic revival to the Near West Side of Chicago for another 100 years.”

(Photo Credit Dave Burk, SOM)

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