Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The History of the City of Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of the lungs and other organs. Once considered incurable, the disease caused its victims to slowly waste away, so it was called "consumption." With a mortality rate of approximately 18 per 10,000 people, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death within the city of Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century.

Early attempts at controlling tuberculosis in Chicago focused on home sanitation, public health education, and patient isolation. Private hospitals took a few tuberculosis patients, but public consumptive facilities were unavailable.

To raise public awareness, the Visiting Nurses Association and physician Theodore Sachs spearheaded an antituberculosis movement in the early 1900s. This eventually resulted in the passage of state legislation, the Glackin Tuberculosis Law, in 1909, giving the city of Chicago the ability to raise funds for treating and controlling tuberculosis through a special property tax.

In 1911, Chicago bought 158 acres to establish the Sanitarium in today's North Park Village Nature Center on Bryn Mawr at Pulaski. It operated from 1915 through the 1970s. 
In 1914, there were 10,000 registered cases of Tuberculosis (TB). The number of deaths due to TB in Chicago that year was 3,384. Yet there were only 300 public beds available in the city for patients who could not afford to pay for treatment. In March 1915, the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium opened its doors to the citizens of Chicago suffering from tuberculosis, and treatment was free to residents of Chicago.
At its opening, MTS was the largest Sanitarium of its kind and the first to have a Maternity Ward and Nursery. There were 32 buildings completed when it opened, and the main ones were connected by an underground tunnel. More buildings were added in later years. The TB Sanitarium was located on Chicago's North Side, on the grounds of what is now Peterson Park and North Park Village.
Some buildings are still standing, looking the same on the outside as in 1915. The Sanitarium was designed as a place for quiet and rest on the city's outskirts, and significant consideration was given to the exterior of the buildings and beautiful grounds.

By the 1950s and 1960s, the disease incidence was drastically reduced through improved public hygiene, vaccines and antimicrobial drugs. When the Sanitarium became under-used by the 1970s, Chicago redeveloped the property as North Park Village to include senior citizen housing, a school for the developmentally disabled, a nature preserve, and parkland. In 1977, the Chicago Park District began leasing and redeveloping the site. 

Read the 1915 "Municipal control of tuberculosis in Chicago. City of Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium, its history and provisions." Report to the Mayor.


  1. An interesting past and a fine future!

  2. My mother Katherine Nelson was one of the first babies born there on 7/18/1915. Her mother died shortly afterwards.

    1. Hello: How did you find out your mother was born at TB sanitarium? I think my father was born here but he was am orphan at St
      Vincents. Thank you

    2. I believe my father was born in the TB sanitarium. He was born in 1915 and was adopted from St. Vincents. Are there any lists of patients available anywhere?

  3. In the 90's one of the buildings was leased to the very first American Indian Boys and Girls club in the country and we are wondering if the murals the children painted are still around.

  4. The North Park Village Nature Center is a wonderful place. We go there often and my father, a retired carpenter, volunteers there. Wish the city would develop a TB museum there in addition to the Nature Center. Many of the buildings are still there and not being used. An important part of history took place there.

  5. Our Lady of Good Counsel High School was across the street on Peterson. Graduated in 1966.

  6. my mother was a nurse and worked there for many yrs. she contavted TB and then was a patient there for many months bcus she was allergic to main drug for treatment!


The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is RATED PG-13. Please comment accordingly. Advertisements, spammers and scammers will be removed.