Friday, December 4, 2015

Flashback Friday - Maryville Before Mid-Century Modern

Lake View Hospital, undated (courtesy of the Chuckman Collection)
Frank Cuneo Memorial Hospital, circa 1948 (courtesy of Illinois Digital Archives)
We usually think of Maryville as an example of the mid-century brutalism style of architecture, but the postcards above show the first incarnation of the hospital on the corner of Clarendon and Agatite. The building dated back to 1910 and was at that time known as Lake View Hospital.

In 1939, Lake View Hospital was sold after getting into financial difficulty. It was taken over by a Catholic order of nuns begun by Mother Francis Cabrini, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. (The same order still owns it today.) The major donor in the hospital's acquisition was Frank Cuneo, a wealthy Uptown businessman who lived at 4849 Sheridan (now the green space between the the Boys & Girls Club and McCutcheon School) and who helped create the booming 1920s Wilson Avenue business district. The hospital was renamed in his honor.

At Mr. Cuneo's request, the hospital became a tribute to his young wife, Amelia, who had died in childbirth in 1891, 50 years earlier. The new charity maternity hospital opened its doors on July 4, 1942 and was dedicated to providing safe and modern obstetric care to any woman who needed it, regardless of ability to pay.

Mr. Cueno passed away at age 80 just a few months after the hospital memorializing his wife opened. The Tribune noted that in 1956 alone, "1,499 babies were born in the hospital with 20 per cent of the mothers charity patients."

In the 1950s, the hospital expanded and built a second building on the northeast corner of Clarendon and Montrose, nestled right up next to a city water pumping station in the park. Edo Belli, the preferred architect of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, designed an elliptical shaped building that connected to the original building by a skybridge over Clarendon Avenue. The cornerstone was laid in 1957 and the addition opened in 1959. Frank and Amelia's son John, the founder of the Cuneo Press, and his wife Julia were the primary fundraisers, and Mrs. Cuneo was president of the women's auxiliary that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the hospital up to date.

In the 1970s, the original 1910 building at Clarendon and Agatite was demolished. Another new hospital building also designed by Belli went up at the northwest corner of Clarendon and Montrose, again with a skybridge connecting the two Belli-designed structures.

The hospital ceased operations in July 1988. The buildings were then home to an emergency shelter run by the state for abused, neglected, and troubled children.  DCFS had been using one floor of the east building for that purpose, but the facility was poorly run, had far more children than it could safely house, and was even dangerous at times for its residents.

In 1988, Maryville Academy, a religious organization that was originally created to care for orphaned street children and wards of the state, took over the operation of the shelter from DCFS. It moved the children under its care to the more spacious west building, utilizing all four floors as a way to alleviate the overcrowded and dangerous conditions. (Personal note: I spent quite a lot of time at Maryville in the 1990s with others, rocking babies born addicted to drugs, trying to acclimate them to being touched.)

In the early 2000s, Maryville itself started generating news of poor management practices and dangerous conditions. The entire organization was reorganized and redefined by a new leader, Sister Catherine Ryan. A decision was made to close the Uptown Maryville facility and it was vacated in 2005.

The two Edo Belli-designed buildings have stood empty ever since, save for the occasional squatters. In 2008, word leaked out that the property was being put up for sale by the order of nuns who have owned it for many decades.

What is next for this site? After years of false starts and stalled proposals, it appears that a deal has been reached for development of the property and the Sisters will sell the 3.5-acre site to JDL/Harlem Irving Properties. We should know for sure by next spring.


  1. Very interesting! Thanks for all the history.

    1. There's more on Friends of Cuneo Facebook and a whole link with info on the architect and the attempts to save the building that keeps popping up on See Click Fix

  2. I agree with Ashlee. Thank you for posting this. Just one of the reason I'm an avid reader of your blog.

    1. Friends of Cuneo has been posting tons of history about the place for over two years now. The original building was the birthplace of Betty Ford and one of the first episodes of Crime Story was filmed east building (interesting if you are into the entertainment history of Uptown). The architecture is really important and they've been trying to save it.

  3. I lived in this building as a troubled youth while under dcfs custody... It was dangerous and frightening... Youth involved in gangs and drugs... Very violent....