Discover / Prentice Women's Hospital
Save a National Treasure
REGION: Midwest
LOCATION:
Chicago, IL
TYPE: Building
Prentice Women’s Hospital opened to international acclaim in 1975. | Photo: Landmarks Illinois
Prentice Women’s Hospital opened to international acclaim in 1975. | Photo: Landmarks Illinois
Opportunity
Save and reinvent a Modernist icon.

Overview

A distinctive cloverleaf-shaped icon in Chicago, Prentice Women’s Hospital was designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg and opened to international acclaim in 1975. The hospital relocated in 2007, leaving the distinctive structure vacant. A strong coalition of preservation groups, architecture and design organizations, and internationally-recognized architects and engineers demonstrated several viable reuses for the groundbreaking Modernist treasure that made it the centerpiece of a cutting-edge Northwestern medical research facility. In spite of a unanimous vote of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that Prentice met the criteria for a Chicago Landmark, the Commission ultimately sided with Northwestern University and cleared the way for demolition of one of Chicago’s most unique buildings.

National Significance

Irreplaceable buildings, landscapes, and sites of the Modernist movement are among the most underappreciated and vulnerable aspects of America’s heritage. Day by day, neglect and demolition erode the physical fabric of the recent past – and our cities. By identifying Modernist icons such as Prentice Women’s Hospital as National Treasures, the National Trust will work to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the recent past before more landmarks are lost.

Ways To Help

Donate to our campaign to save Prentice Women’s Hospital.

Tell us why Prentice Women's Hospital matters to you.

Posted on July 25, 2013

by Chris Morris, Project Manager

Prentice Basement DemolitionI received 2 rather vague but frantic posts from people in the Streeterville neighborhood earlier this week suggesting demolition was well underway at Prentice. They didn't provide any detail or photos, so I bolted over there yesterday afternoon to see what was up (or down, as the case may be). The demolition contractors had broken through the street level and were busily digging into the basement below the northwest corner of the base. The good news is that no additional scaffolding has been erected around the base or the tower...yet.

I'll do my best to track the activitiy at the site, so keep checking back here for more updates.

Posted on July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Bertrand Goldbergby Chris Morris, Project Manager

You may not know it, but July 17th marked a major milestone in Chicago architectural history. Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg, architectural innovator and brainchild behind Prentice Women's Hospital. Born in 1913, Bertrand (or "Bud" as he was known to his friends and colleagues) studied at the Bauhaus and worked briefly with Mies van der Rohe before striking out on his own to create some of the most striking and well-known concrete forms to grace the Windy City: Marina City (aka "the Corncobs), Hillard Homes, Astor Tower, and River City. Goldberg passed away in 1997 but his legacy lives on in dozens of innovative projects of all shapes, sizes and types that pushed the boundaries of urban planning, engineering, technology and new construction materials. And for that I'd like to say, "Happy 100th Birthday, Bertrand! You genius made our cities cool and interesting and wonderous places. You are sorely missed."

The Chicago media also took note of Goldberg's centenary, as did Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, who tweeted "why would they want to take this building down when Chicago is know[n] for its great architecture." Good question, Alex...good question.

I'll do my best to track the activitiy at the site, so keep checking back here for more updates.

Posted on July 02, 2013

Chris Morrisby Chris Morris, Project Manager

We've been hearing bits and pieces of information from Northwestern and others that demolition (in some fashion) is expected to start any day now. Scaffolding first showed up at the site at Prentice Connector Demolitionthe end of May, along with a notice from Northwestern that demo of the connector to the Lurie Research building would occur on June 8. But June 8 came and went with no activity. And no more scaffolding. This weekend another notice to NU students was distributed, warning them to steer clear of Prentice because it "will be under heavy construction for the next 12 months." That, of course, prompted me to run over to Prentice yesterday to see what damage was being wrought. I was surprised to learn the answer was...not much. The tiny connector to Lurie has come down, but that's it. No new scaffolding. And nothing to suggest they are ready to start on the exterior anytime soon.

Speaking of surprises, we all were taken aback by the actions of a mystery supporter last week when a plane towing a pro-Prentice banner directed at NU President Morton Schapiro buzzed the Northwestern graduation ceremonies in Evanston! As you might expect, many people assumed we had staged the stunt. But it wasn't us. Nor was it any of our partners who were members of the Save Prentice Coalition. Apparently someone out there really wants to see Prentice saved and isn't shy about making his or her opinion known to an audience of thousands of Northwestern students, parents, and staff.

Posted on June 27, 2013

Chris Morrisby Chris Morris, Project Manager

While some people may be familiar with the process of professionally documenting a building for posterity, I certainly wasn't! Fortunately I had an amazing team of talented photographers and videographers in Scrappers Film Group who held my hand and made sure we got high-quality images that were both beautiful and informative. For those of you who've never done photo or video documentation, or who would like to get some helpful hints on how to go about it, check out the latest Preservation Leadership Forum blog on the Prentice project. It has lots of helpful advice and some fantastic photos of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice.

Pages

Image
Files must be less than 8 MB.
Allowed file types: png gif jpg jpeg.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
Posts are moderated, and therefore do not appear immediately.
Ian Geoghegan on August 07, 2013
Please don't let happen to this building what happened to the Armstrong Rubber (Pirelli Tire) Building in New Haven. Breuer's building is to New Haven whats Mies and Goldberg are to Chicago. Breuer's building is now just a vacant shell of which they tore down most of for an IKEA parking lot.
James McAndrews on March 25, 2013
I was the second baby born in the facility shortly after it opened on Decmember 15th, 1975 (Beaten by a few minutes by one Mr. Wayne Otis Jr., my mother has an excellent memory of her roomate lol). My parents have shared their memories with me many times of being in the building while construction was still going on and looking with new life out of the oval windows. 37 years later I am an architecture buff with a love for Bertrand Goldberg and his misunderstood vision of the future that is starting to be washed away in a society that is becoming increasingly disposable.
Jenny on November 30, 2012
I was a suburban hospital labor and delivery nurse in the 1980s and 1990s. Our very high-risk mothers and babies were taken to Prentice by helicopter or ambulance. Hundreds of lives were saved here. Thousands more can be saved! There is no reason it can't be modified to allow for current and future use for research or patient care or another use.
Rick Selle on November 30, 2012
This was my first construction job! I worked for Paschen Contractors right after high school, in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have pointed this place out to everyone I could! Many men spent many hours here and we are proud of it.
Anonymous on November 05, 2012
Chicago has always been behind-the-times in preservation. The haven't been at the cutting edge lf architecture for about 100 years - and they don't get it. Their gripes about tax implications and "control" - we deemed nonsense on the East Coast 30 year ago. Shame on the provincial leaders of Chicago.
Mary Flocco on October 25, 2012
What a wonderful building...inside and out! After giving birth to one of my sons, I lay exhausted in my hospital bed, and watched sailboats gliding along on our beautiful, vibrant-blue Lake Michigan. Whether a hospital building , a residence, or an office, this is a building built to experience. If torn down now, the architectural heritage of Chicago will be forever diminished!
Lora Toothman on September 21, 2012
I've only had the pleasure of visiting Chicago once, but I will never forget the way my heart started racing when I saw Betrand Goldberg's buildings in person for the first time. I remember wandering the Northwestern campus after the first day of my conference, and happening on Prentice Women's Hospital. What a wonderful surprise! Goldberg's buildings are part of the fabric of Chicago, and contribute to the city's unique architectural identity. Demolishing the Prentice Women's Hospital would destroy a part of that identity. Please find another use for the building, don't wipe it away.
Bill Figler on September 21, 2012
The building is truly unique and its design is amazing. My perspective is from inside the building where both of my two sons were born. Moms recover up in rooms in the rounded part with elliptical windows that framed The Magnificent Mile. These rooms felt directly connected to nurse's stations in each leaf or pod. You are able to sleep overnight as I did one night on the couch that turns into a bed to keep my wife company in the first days after our first son's birth. Today I like to take my sons by the building to point out where they were born before its gone. I hope they remember as they are not yet out of the single digits in age. The maternity ward is where hospitals connect with new future patients to get them for life and so it is very competitive even for a hospital with the reputation of Northwestern Memorial. It may be a little more challenging to adapt this building to some cookie-cutter office and lab space, but it could be done. A reuse as housing makes more sense. Most importantly Northwestern has taken over two large blocks immediately south of old Prentice. It wants to use part of the furthest south block to move the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago from where it is now immediately east of old Prentice. The now gravel lot is where Channel 2, Chicago’s CBS owned and operated, had its studio when Kennedy debated Nixon. Also many other older buildings that were much of Northwestern Memorial's other facilities have been demolished including the original Wesley Memorial Hospital finished in 1945 with a $1 million donation from Inland Steel founder George Jones, a beautiful gothic limestone building that was the first "skyscraper" hospital. The new Prentice Women's Hospital opened there in 2007. The Passavant Memorial Hospital building also a limestone gothic was demolished earlier to build the research buildings that are are on two sides of old Prentice now. The mid-century modern Lakeside VA hospital in the block immediately south of old Prentice was also completely demolished and is nothing but a gravel lot now. So much history has been lost and more will go with the demolition of old Prentice and RIC in the next few years. With nothing but blocks of empty lots aluminum boxes for their “campus”, the question is why can’t Northwestern do better?
Mary Kroul McAlpin on August 16, 2012
Paul Rudolph was a truly significant American modernist architect. We now appreciate Victorian Beaux Arts frou-frou, but are dismissive of the grand visions of the mid-twentieth century. Please, these are such endangered buildings. Do we really want to make the mistakes we made with such monuments as Penn Station? Let us be a little less short sighted.
Frank Butterfield, Lake Mills, WI on June 09, 2012
My mother, a nurse familiar with Chicago hospitals, sought out Prentice Women's Hospital as the place to have each of her three children. I like to think that my first view of the city was from one of Prentice's oval windows, or perhaps a glimpse of Prentice's distinctive shape as we headed home. To this day, I thank my mom for choosing Prentice, forever connecting my own story with Chicago's celebrated architectural heritage.
Lisa Skolnik, Chicago, IL on June 09, 2012
There are many reasons to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, from its seminal and eloquent design to its relative youth; a mere 37, the building is a prime candidate for adaptive reuse. It also offers splendid visual relief in a quarter of the city that is now dominated by tall, blocky hulks amassed shoulder-to-shoulder, with nary a curve or any room to breathe between them. But for me, there are far more poignant reasons to save Prentice. It is, and always will be, my personal four-leaf clover after delivering four healthy babies within its embracing walls, and experiencing the memorable relationships it fostered with other patients and the medical staff. With each birth, meeting mothers in neighboring rooms was unavoidable because of the intimacy prompted by the hospital’s design. I am still close to two of those women whose children were born the same day as mine, as are our children. The legacy of this remarkable building should not be destroyed. We must find a way to give it a second act.

Campaign Overview

Threat:
Demolition

Support the Trust's Work
Contribute Now

Learn about other ways to help

Share This Campaign

Help These Places Today

  • Union Terminal. Courtesy Cincinnati Museum Center
  • Photo by Ron Cogswell
  • The Battle Mountain Sanitarium was established by Congress in 1902. | Photo: National Trust
  • Courtesy Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation
  • Photo by Alison King
  • Cliff Dwelling at sunset in Eastern Cedar Mesa. Photo by Donald J. Rommes
  • Photo by Carol Highsmith
  • Courtesy James River Association
  • Photo by Donna L. Ching
  • Photo by Burger International Photography
  • Villa Lewaro is the home of Madam CJ Walker. | Courtesy Historic New England/ Photo by David Bohl
  • Philip Johnson designed the Pavilion for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. | Photo: Duncan Kendall
  • Administration Building | Photo by Cynthia Lynn
  • Patayan-style rock art at Sears Point Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Photo by Robert Mark
  • Photo courtesy Franz Neumeier/www.steamboats.org
  • Save the Dome
  • Photo by James Higgins
  • The Mississippi Delta has been referred to as the "cradle of American culture." | Photo: National Trust
  • Sunset at Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. | Photo: Brian Rockwell
  • The electrical substation at Hanford, WA, a Manhattan Project site. | Photo: National Trust
  • The Washington National Cathedral was completed over the course of 83 years. | Photo: National Trust
  • Union Station serves as a historic gateway to the Nation's Capital. | Photo: Carol Highsmith
  • The Milwaukee Soldiers Home was built in 1867. | Photo: Milwaukee Preservation Alliance
  • Pond Farm was the home/studio of prominent ceramicist Marguerite Wildenhain. | Photo: National Trust
  • Hinchliffe Stadium was built by public funds during the Great Depression. | Photo: Melissa Murphy
  • Nantucket Lightship is the largest U.S. lightship ever built. | Photo: Matt Teuten
  • Floating by Miami Marine Stadium, an entertainment venue off the Biscayne Bay. | Photo: Rick Bravo
  • Photo by Gordon Beall
  • The Rosenwald Program improved education for African Americans in the South. | Photo: National Trust
  • Mount Taylor sits atop one of the richest reserves of uranium ore in the U.S. | Photo: National Trust
  • Lyndhurst is a site of the National Trust. | Photo: Brian Thomson/The Ethan James Foundation
  • The stone walls and moat of Fort Monroe. | Photo: Patrick McKay
  • The number of cruise ships in Charleston has increased exponentially. | Photo: National Trust
  • Auburn Avenue is a historically significant African American commercial area. | Photo: Stan Kaady
  • It was here that Joe Frazier trained for his victorious bout against Muhammad Ali. | Photo: Pete Marovich
  • Village of Zoar | Photo by Andy Donaldson
  • Princeton Battlefield is one of the Revolutionary War’s most significant battlefields. | Photo: Jon Roemer
  • Theodore Roosevelt first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt buffalo. | Photo: Dickinson State University
  • The Karnes County Courthouse in Karnes City. | Photo: Mick Watson
  • Malcolm X—Ella Little-Collins House | Photo by Steve Dunwell
  • La Jolla, CA Post Office
  • Ellis Island was known as an “Island of Hope” for immigrants. | Photo: Clara Daly/ward9.com
  • Stoneman Bridge | Photo by Lee Rentz
  • Success! Chimney Rock designated a National Monument. | Photo: Mark Roper, U.S. Forest Service
  • The Haas-Lilienthal House is an exuberant 1886 Queen Anne-style Victorian. | Photo: Jeff Scott
  • Terminal Island played a vital role during WWI and WWII. | Photo: Los Angeles Harbor Department
  • White Grass is one of America's last, great pioneer dude ranches. | Photo: National Trust
  • Prentice Women’s Hospital opened to international acclaim in 1975. | Photo: Landmarks Illinois