By Nathalie Wheaton
Rush University Medical Center changed its name from Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in 2003. What’s the story behind all those names?
Let’s begin with Presbyterian Hospital. Rush Medical College moved to the west side after the Great Chicago Fire to be near Cook County Hospital. Although the Rush faculty had close ties to County, they opened Presbyterian Hospital, which they could use as their own teaching hospital. The hospital was established with the financial support of local Presbyterian congregations in 1883. The first Presbyterian Hospital buildings, the Ross and Hamill wings, stood where the Murdock Building (1912) stands today. Currently, the oldest standing building on Rush’s campus is the Jones Building (1888) which housed Presbyterian Hospital’s patient wards. The Rush Medical College buildings and Presbyterian Hospital buildings were connected, as they are today, allowing faculty and students to travel easily from classrooms, laboratories, and offices to a patient’s bedside.
What about St. Luke’s Hospital?
St. Luke’s Hospital was founded in 1864 by the Rev. Clinton Locke, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, with the help and support of a woman’s society in his parish. At the time, Chicago was served by only two hospitals. Locke saw the need for a free hospital to serve the growing population of the city. For most of its history, the hospital stood on the 1400 blocks of Michigan and Indiana Avenues.
When I’m walking down Harrison Street, it looks like it used to say “University of Chicago” over the old entrance to the Rawson building. Why is that?
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. You can still see the shadow left behind by the metal letters that spelled out the University of Chicago under Rawson Laboratory, Rush Postgraduate School of Medicine. The seal of the university can still be seen above the entryway. By the late 19th century, medical schools could no longer afford increasing costs relying only on student tuition. Affiliations with universities allowed medical schools to draw from endowments and the prestige of a larger institution. Rush Medical College served as the medical department of Lake Forest University from 1887 to 1898. In 1898, Rush ended its affiliation with Lake Forest and joined the University of Chicago, which had opened in 1892. For many years, medical students would take two years of coursework on the University of Chicago campus before coming to Rush for clinical experience. The Rush Postgraduate School of Medicine of the University of Chicago was established in 1924 and Rawson Memorial was opened to serve as Rush’s laboratory building.
I heard that Rush Medical College was closed for a while. Is that true?
The University of Chicago began developing its own medical campus in the late 1920s. Rush Medical College and the University of Chicago dissolved their affiliation in 1941 for many reasons, including financial, geographic and political. Rush Medical College closed its doors in 1942, and much of its faculty joined the staff at the University of Illinois, just south of the Rush campus. Rush’s charter remained active and the corporation still owned its land and buildings. Rush continued to fill the position of medical director of Rush Medical College, and the trustees continued to meet. Presbyterian Hospital remained open.
What about the nursing schools? Don’t forget the nurses!
We wouldn’t dream of neglecting Rush’s rich nursing history. In fact, we think they deserve their own FAQ blog post! Stay tuned.
Next time: Presbyterian and St. Luke’s Hospitals merge, the reopening of Rush Medical College and the establishment of Rush University. Have questions? Leave a comment below!
Part 1: Rush Begins took you from Rush’s founding in 1837 through 1875, when Rush Medical College moved to its current campus on the west side of Chicago.
Nathalie Wheaton is assistant archivist at the Rush University Medical Center Archives. Do you have a question about Rush’s history? Contact the Rush Archives at (312) 942-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.lib.rush.edu/archives.