The History of Cook County Hospital

Cook County Hospital traces its origins to the Board of Commissioners who establish the Poor House, providing free medical care to indigents.


The Poor House is unable to meet population needs. At Kinzie and State, the County rents Tippecanoe Hall, becoming the Cook County Hospital.

Tippecanoe Hall closes in 1850. Its poor patients go to Illinois General Hospital of the Lake, a public hospital founded by doctors and laymen.

The Sisters of Mercy take control of the Illinois General Hospital.

The hospital incorporates as Mercy Hospital and Orphan Asylum. The County sends its indigents to this hospital and pays for their care.

The Chicago Medical Society reports that the Poor Farm provides inadequate care. The report recommends the County procure the former city hospital from the U.S. Government and utilize it as a medical facility for indigents.

The U.S. Army discharges its last patients from the hospital and returns it to the County. Dr. George Amerman was elected to the Board of Commissioners and was instrumental in the push for the establishment of a County hospital. Dr Amerman is considered the Father of Cook County Hospital.

1866 Cook County Hospital opens in January when 12 patients arrive from the Poor Farm and from Mercy Hospital.

The hospital serves between 1,400 and 1,500 patients per year.

The Hospital Committee recommends that the County Board construct a new hospital on a more desirable location.

The County Board purchases the property at Harrison, Wood, Polk and Lincoln Streets, for $145,000, the location of the current hospital.

In March, the Board votes to build a new hospital for $700,000.
The new hospital opens, consisting of two medical pavilions, laundry, morgue, kitchen, boiler house, and a bed capacity of 300.

CCH expands to two additional pavilions, a clinical amphitheater, and an administration building. The hospital’s bed capacity grows to 500-600. The year the hospital treats 5,934 patients.
The hospital treats 34.000 patients. Overcrowding is a problem and the facility is old and needs repairs. The County Board votes to build a new 656 bed hospital at a cost of $3 million.

The new facility opens and is the current Main Building of CCH. Dr. Karl A. Meyer heads the hospital from 1914-1967. Meyer sets the standard for excellent medical training programs and medical advancements both during his tenure and continuing today.
The Main Building adds two new pavilions, giving the hospital a total bed capacity of 2,000.

The hospital treats nearly 42,000 patients. A new building program begins at a cost of $2.5 million.
CCH adds a children’s hospital, men’s hospital, new morgue, and a receiving/admitting building. The hospital’s bed capacity increases to 3,400.

The Cook County School of Nursing opens in the former Illinois Training School for Nurses, now the site of Pasteur Park.
The School of Nursing moves to 1900 W. Polk. The school provides nursing services until 1971, when the department transfers to the hospital. A diploma program in nursing education is available until it closes in 1980.

The world’s first blood bank opens at Cook County Hospital. Blood bank founder, Dr. Bernard Fantus opens a blood bank preservation laboratory.

The County acquires the West Side Hospital at Harrison and Wolcott Streets.

The County reopens the West Side Hospital at Fantus Out-Patient Clinic, named in memory of Dr. Bernard Fantus.

Hektoen Institute opens in the former John McCormick Institute for Infectious Diseases, on South Wood Street. After razing the building in 1961, the current Hektoen Institute opens in 1964, at the same location.
The Midwest’s first cobalt-beam therapy unit opens for cancer patients at Cook County Hospital. It was only one of three in the U.S.Karl A. Meyer Hall opens, providing residence facilities for house staff physicians.

A new central diagnostic x-ray department opens with the world’s first radiographic rooms especially designed for highly technical examinations of the chambers of the heart, blood vessels, the brain for tumors, and sectional depth body studies.The hospital receives its first three-year accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Fantus Out-Patient Clinic moves to Harrison and Winchester Streets and reopens as Fantus Health Center in 1972. The current facility houses 99 clinics.

Robin Dean Heliport opens, named after a former five-year-old female patient.

A separate Emergency Room opens.Dr. Boone Chunprapah becomes the first doctor to successfully reconnect four completely severed fingers from a man’s hand.

CCH becomes the first hospital to use an all frozen blood banking system.

Ron Sable, MD, and Renslow Sherer, MD, found Chicago’s first HIV/AIDS clinic.

Fantus Health Center opens the new Ambulatory Screening Clinic.

The Adult Emergency Room is renovated. It is one of the nation’s largest and busiest. Adult ER treats over 110,000 patients annually; Pediatrics ER treats 45,000 children and adolescents each year.

The HIV/AIDS clinic was re-named the Sable/Sherer Clinic. The clinic treated one-third of Cook County’s HIV/AIDS patients.

Cook County Hospital establishes a medical school affiliation with Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital.The Trauma Center receives a renovation. CCH is home to the city’s busiest trauma center.

Cook County receives a Certificate of Need (CON) from Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board approving construction of a new hospital.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners takes the final steps in the approval process, voting to accept a contract to construct a new hospital. County government, elected officials, health, and civic leaders hold groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Cook County Hospital. The new hospital will be a 464-bed state-of-the-art, comprehensive facility, scheduled for completion in 2002. Additionally, construction begins on a new energy efficient central power plant for the hospital campus.Cook County Hospital addresses its chronic parking problems with the completion of a 1,340-car parking structure, known as Phase I. Future plans include Phase II, that will add two floors, creating 2,100 total parking spaces.