Despite earlier prognosis, city to terminate Reese building

November 5, 2010

The century-old former main building of the now-defunct Michael Reese Hospital--one of two historic buildings on the site that were to be preserved by the city--will be torn down, Mayor Richard M. Daley said yesterday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the 103-year-old building will be razed because of damage caused by squatters and a hole in the roof, plus a $13.2 million price tag to rehab the structure. The paper also said the fire department called the building at 29th and Ellis an "imminent danger to the public," although the 37-acre site has been cordoned off since demolition began a year ago.

In an astounding reversal of its previous position to save the 1907 building designed by Prairie School architects Schmidt Garden & Martin, Daley--according to the Sun-Times--now says: "You can’t. We don’t have $13 million to enclose that. . . . The city doesn’t have it — especially in these very difficult economic times. . . . If the structure was sound — if there was no hole in the roof — you would save it. But there’s a huge hole in the roof. How are you gonna save it?”

Demolition would leave just a single Reese building on the campus: the mid-century modern Singer Pavilion, the sole survivor of a cluster of buildings on the site designed with help of the famed Bauhaus planner Walter Gropius.  In a bow to preservationists after the seven other Gropius buildings were demolished, the city spared the Singer--but has not given it protected landmark status.

So what has been lost at Reese since the bulldozers began rolling? Just a sample:

 

In the photo above, the bedtower on the right was part of an ensemble of structures that fell at the beginning of the year:

And below...one of the "Gropius Buildings," that were part of a sensitive Postwar expansion of the campus. This pavilion was lost along with acres of restorative greenspace that had been built along with the new buildings. (I might profile the lost greenspace in a future post--provided I can find all the pix I took.)