11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Historic Cook County Hospital

Year Listed: 2004
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Threat: Neglect, Public Policy


Once the country's largest hospital, Old Cook County, an impressive 1912 Beaux-Arts structure, became familiar to millions of Americans as the setting for numerous films and TV programs including "The Fugitive" and "ER". The facility was long the primary source of health care for Chicago's poor and immigrant populations. But it also played a key role in the advancement of medicine by educating generations of health-care professionals and establishing innovations such as trauma and burn units, the diagnoses of sickle cell anemia, and the country's first blood bank. But in 2001 the future of the hospital was in serious doubt, following the construction of its replacement right next door. To draw attention to the imminent threat, Landmarks Illinois listed Old Cook County as one of its Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

Working with Landmarks and other local preservation organizations, the National Trust joined the battle to save Old Cook County in 2004, listing it as one of the America 's 11 Most Endangered Places. The listing helped focus national attention on the county's plans to demolish a building that was viewed by many as "Chicago's Statue of Liberty."But in spite of broad support for the building's preservation, the County remained committed to their plans for demolition that were estimated to cost as much as $13.6 million. The staggering price tag of demolition provided an opening to explore other, more reasonable alternatives. Landmarks Illinois commissioned a detailed reuse plan for the building, featuring design solutions and construction estimates, which they distributed widely to public officials and developers. The reuse plan, combined with widespread public opposition to the proposed demolition, convinced the County to delay a demolition contract for the hospital.