Sunday, August 11, 2019

The history of the Chicago Fresh Air Hospital in the West Ridge community. (1912-ca.1960)

The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital was located at 2451 West Howard Street in Chicago (Tel: Rogers Park-0321). It was built in 1912 on 20 acres of the Peter Gouden Farm near the southwest corner of Howard Street between Maplewood and Western Avenues in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of the West Ridge Community.
The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital building's footprint is highlighted in green.
It was built by doctors from Augustana Hospital who wanted to build a sanitorium for tuberculosis patients. This was prompted because Augustana would not accept such patients at that time.
Photo courtesy of the Rogers Park West Ridge Historical Society.
The building was constructed at the cost of $126,000.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of the lungs and other organs. Once considered incurable, the disease caused its victims to slowly waste away, which was why 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 20th century.

Early attempts at controlling tuberculosis in Chicago focused on home sanitation, public health education, and isolation of the patient. Private hospitals took in a few tuberculosis patients, but public facilities to care for the affected were not available.

In order 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 the treatment and control of tuberculosis through a special property tax.

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 citizens of Chicago suffering from tuberculosis. Treatment was free to residents of Chicago.
The Chicago Fresh Air Hospital later became known as Bethesda Hospital around 1960 and, at one time, was affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital (today's Sinai Health System).

In 2005 a Korean-American gentleman named Park converted the former hospital into a condominium complex.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. dad was discharged from the Navy in WW2 due to Tuberculosis. I know he was in a treatment facility (he recovered) but I have no idea where. Since he was a South Side person, I doubt if this was the place.

  2. I had a great uncle who was in one for years. He survived and lived with a brother the rest of his life.

  3. I lived nearby in the late 1950s early 1960s
    When there was a “forest” to the East of the hospital at the SW corner of Howard and Western. That forest was razed and the corner shopping center was built.
    We used to walk thru the woods on our way to the Western Ave bus terminal.

  4. Thank you for this post. I worked there at Bethesda Hospital in the laboratory for 9 years. 1961 to 1970. All laboratory tests were done manually . We didn't have the technology we have today, 2023. We did tests manually within 2
    rooms. Chemistry, Blood
    bank, Histology, Serology,
    Hematology, and Pathology, you name it. It holds great memories. JC.

  5. Wednesday October 18, 2023
    I received my Uncle Franks death certificate yesterday. It is a strange feeling to find out that he died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 4 December 1953 at the Fresh Air Hospital in Chicago . Being from Canada it was great to read all the comments. Thank You


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