Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium

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Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Established 1913
Opened 1915
Closed 1974
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Otis & Clark
Location Chicago, IL


The Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium (MTS) was originally designed as a 160-acre campus with buildings planned at the center of the site with a ring of trees and green space for farming that would also serve as a buffer from the surrounding community. The main administration and infirmary buildings, all constructed of brick, were organized in a straight line across the campus, with the public Administration Building at the west end of the campus and the back-of-house functional buildings—the power house and grounds-keeping buildings—at the far eastern end. These buildings were connected by subterranean service tunnels for nurses and staff. The tops of the tunnels served as raised walkways with pipe railings and brick planters. The central axis of brick buildings also served to divide the grounds into two separate sections—the men’s section to the north and the women’s section to the south. Frame cottages for men were arranged along diagonal paths with a road connecting to the men’s infirmary; a similar arrangement of cottages was constructed south of the main complex for female patients. A farm was located at the southeastern corner of the site, including a greenhouse, chicken coops, root cellar, and small dairy house that were built after the sanitarium opened in 1915. Open fields for outdoor activities were placed along the eastern edge and northeastern corner of the campus and a long, narrow pond was established near the center of the north end of the site.

A series of paved roads and walking paths served to connect the campus buildings. Historically, visitors entered from the main entrance gate at the southwestern corner of the site, at the intersection of Bryn Mawr and Pulaski Road, and followed a 1,400-foot-long driveway into the center of the campus. A secondary service entrance was located at the northeastern corner of the site at the intersection of Peterson and Central Park avenues. Both entrances featured a small brick gatehouse.

Despite progress, a national survey in 1945 identified Chicago as one of the “nation’s tuberculosis plague spots.” The city’s death rate was one of the highest in the country despite its innovative procedures and extensive antituberculosis programs. By the time MTS’s quality and care had suffered. By the late 1940s, MTS had room for 1,200 patients, but, the Chicago Tribune reported, “many patients died while seeking to cut the political red tape which frequently balked their admission.” MTS was overhauled to remove political interference in 1949 following the election of Mayor Martin H. Kennelly, with a new board headed by Dr. Ernest E. Irons, who had served as president of the American Medical Association. The entire institution was then revamped for increased efficiency to better accommodate the hundreds of critical tuberculosis cases that had been on waiting lists to enter the facility. The city’s death rate from tuberculosis declined by 20 percent in 1950 following reforms at MTS, and by the late 1950s there was no longer a waiting list for treatment.

Between 1955 and 1965, deaths from the disease decreased by 64 percent. Part of this decline was because of improvements at MTS and the city’s hospital system, but the reduction was also due to new drugs to fight tuberculosis.A sharp decline in tuberculosis cases in the late 1960s brought the first significant changes to the grounds of the MTS campus. Patients were consolidated into the larger infirmary buildings and women’s cottages and all the men’s cottages, along with several of the women’s and children’s cottages and adjacent landscaping, were demolished around 1970. After the MTS closed in 1974, the site was renamed North Park Village and divided into several sections, each with a proposed reuse. The remaining frame cottages and adjacent landscaping were razed at this time.

Most of the buildings have been reused and are part of the Peterson Park Gymnastic Center.

Images of Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium