Errand of Mercy (1-4-1968)

It was a typical January day in Chicago.  Temperature near zero, snow on the ground, periodic gusts of wind.  What better time to move 160 hospital patients?

Mercy Hospital had been operating at 2537 S. Prairie Avenue since 1869.  It had treated victims of the Chicago Fire, and had tended to ex-President Theodore Roosevelt after he survived an assassination attempt.  But now the building was nearly a hundred years old, and being replaced.

A new hospital had been built a block away, at 2510 S. South Park Way (King Drive).  The price tag was $26 million.  With 517 beds, it was bigger than the ancient red-brick structure, and featured the latest in medical equipment.  Pride of the facility was the 35-million-volt radiology machine for cancer treatment.

The architecture of the new Mercy Hospital was stunning.  The building was all glass and stone and steel, the height of 1968 fashion.  More than one observer was reminded of the nearby Circle Campus.

Bad weather or not, the transfer from 1869 to 1968 could not be delayed.  The new building was ready and waiting.  Shortly after 8 a.m., they began the move.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Association had provided 20 vehicles without charge.  The patients were bundled onto stretchers and, one by one, shuttled from Prairie Avenue to South Park Way.  Meanwhile, office staff walked the thousands of medical folders over the same route.  They often stopped to retrieve documents blown away by the bone-chilling wind.

Most everyone seemed in good spirits.  The first patients transferred were a 27-year-old woman and her two-day-old baby.  “You know, that was kind of fun,” she said—the mother, not the baby.

A few people admitted they would miss the familiar old Mercy.  One patient was crying as she was brought into the new building.  The woman had just given birth to her seventh child.  She also happened to be a part-time nurse in the hospital’s emergency room.

“Wednesday night in the old hospital, I was up three times during the night, looking around,” she explained.  “I have very, very mixed emotions.  I had looked forward to a new hospital, but . . .”  And then she broke down again.

By 4 p.m. the transfer was complete.  The old Mercy Hospital closed its doors forever.  A few months later, the historic building was demolished.



0 Responses to “Errand of Mercy (1-4-1968)”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: