Chicago, Illinois, USA
After escaping demolition and years of dashed hopes for redevelopment, the former Cook County Hospital has reopened as Harrison Square—a hotel, food hall, hotel, and home of Cook County medical offices.
Designed in 1912 by Paul Gerhardt of Griffiths, John, & Sons, the $130 million renovation has transformed the historic building into a contemporary anchor and catalyst for the Rush Hospital campus and surrounding community on Chicago’s near Westside. The rehabilitation of the Old Cook County Hospital has returned the building to useful life as a landmark that is both historic and architecturally significant.
In its decade of neglect by Cook County, the historic building was dubbed “Chicago’s Ellis Island.”
The historic restoration plans have been developed and refined by a team of three Chicago firms of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., and Koo architects. The team carefully preserved, restored, and adapted the former hospital building to meet the changing needs of the neighborhood with a new hotel, food hall, medical offices, and community spaces.
Now rebranded as Harrison Square, the 342,000-square foot new complex includes two Hyattbranded hotels with a combined 210 rooms, in addition to a large suite of medical offices, a museum dedicated to the legacy of the building, a daycare center, a 24-hour fitness facility, and what’s perhaps the country’s only food hall named in honor of a long-dead abdominal surgeon.
Not only a monumental example of the neoclassical Beaux-Arts style, Cook County Hospital has an illustrious history. Many medical advances took place here, including the development of the first blood bank in the United States, and the hospital was long known as “Chicago’s Ellis Island” for its devoted treatment of poor communities and immigrants to the city.
When the rehabilitation project began in 2018, deferred maintenance, exposure to the elements, and vandalism had caused severe deterioration to the exterior and interior of the building. The restoration work focused first on repairing the neoclassical-style exterior, which involved the replacement of more than 4,500 pieces of terra cotta on the facade.
A sliver-thin canopy of steel and glass marks the entrance to the building, replacing a former bulky addition that diminished the integrity of the historic facade. Inside, SOM restored the lobby to its original height of 25 feet. Original red terrazzo flooring and ornate Beaux-Arts molding immediately evoke the building’s original grandeur.
SOM and KOO took advantage of the building’s relatively thin footprint to configure 210 hotel rooms filled with natural light. Some of the more unusual spaces within the former hospital, including lofty operating rooms, were transformed into distinctive guest rooms.
The first of several phases of redevelopment, the restored Cook County Hospital building is the keystone for a vibrant, mixed-use, transit-oriented district. It revitalizes the surrounding Illinois Medical District and provides much needed amenities to support the needs of medical workers, patients, and their families.
Architects: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP.
Associate Architects: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Interior Architects: Koo architects
Original Architects: Paul Gerhardt of Griffiths, John, & Sons (1912)
Developer: Murphy Development Group, MB Real Estate, Plenary Group, and Granite Companies
Clients: Civic Health Development Group (CHDG)
General Contractor: Walsh Construction
Photographer: Dave Burk/SOM