Wrecking ball begins final rounds at the old Michael Reese Hospital

April 27, 2011

Demolition has begun on the former Michael Reese Hospital main building.

Built in 1907, the building at 29th and Ellis was once the spine of a sprawling 37-acre medical campus where pioneering doctors discovered the links between coronary heart disease and cholesterol; unlocked the mysteries of insulin; made breakthroughs in pathology, neonatalogy, and were responsible for medical miracles too numerous to mention, saving and improving more lives than anybody could dare count. Quality architecture was used to underscore the hospital's mission.

Virtually the entire campus is gone now; purchased by the city under the hope the site would host the 2016 Olympic Village. Demolition went ahead after the city lost the Olympic bid in 2009, but the 104-year-old building designed by Schmidt Garden & Martin and a modernist pavilion just south of it were to be spared. But that changed last November. For now, the Singer Pavilion is all that will remain of the once-mighty hospital--and Singer's use is uncertain.

Nothing last forever; that which is built for today must ultimately yield for tomorrow. Still, it does tug at the heartstrings a bit to see old Reese battered and standing alone against that big sky; its insides laid open and its days numbered. The graceful old hospital that provided so much comfort, help and healing over the decades deserved much better.