Victorian-Era Chicago Building Being Demolished For Nothing

Rush University Medical Center Tower

The supremely awesome Rush University Medical Center tower, which gave four other buildings their unemployment papers

Rush University Senn Memorial Building - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2009 - 002a

The Senn Memorial Building, one of four buildings Rush University Medical Center is about to tear down

Perched on the banks of that taillight tributary called Congress Parkway sits one of Chicago’s oldest buildings.  But not for long. Demolition crews are revving their engines to eviscerate Rush University Medical Center’s Jones Building (1753 West Congress Parkway), a Victorian-era pile that is part of a hospital so venerable that it’s older than the city, itself.

The building in question is Rush’s Jones Building, built around 1888 after what was then called Rush Medical College was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire.  But it’s not the only old building on the block about to be turned into a memory.  The 1903 Senn Building, the 1912 Murdoch Building and the 1924 Rawson Building are all about to meet their makers.

The demolitions are the final phase in Rush’s decade-long campus transformation which saw the construction of the magnificent Perkins+Will-designed butterfly-shaped medical tower a block away.  That new building has absorbed the functions formerly performed in the old buildings.  The entire project cost is about a billion dollars, of which you’re paying eight percent.  The four buildings will be replaced by… nothing.  Quite literally.  Their footprints are being given over to green space.

The Jones Building’s cornerstone was laid on July 3, 1888.  Back then it was known as the Daniel A. Jones Hospital, even though it was technically just a wing of the existing Chicago Presbyterian Hospital.  It added 250 more beds to the hospital complex at a cost of $130,000.  The bulk of that was donated by the estate of Mr. Jones.  A brief search didn’t turn up too much about Jones other than he was rich and enjoyed giving his money to charities in Chicago and Europe.  For his local largesse he got his name plastered across what was considered the finest hospital west of New York City.

Rush University Rawson Laboratory Building - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2009 - 002a

The Rawson Building, one of four buildings Rush University Medical Center is about to tear down

But he had great admirers, including Charles L. Hutchinson who was, among other things, vice president of Continental Bank, president of both the Corn Exchange and the Art Institute of no slouch of a philanthropist, himself.  It was the death of Mr. Jones that made the money available for a new hospital, and at the groundbreaking he was properly eulogized by his friend, Mr. Hutchinson.

We are gathered here in the name of the Great Physician to set the stone which shall be at the corner of the temple dedicated to the service of God.  What grander temple could our brother Daniel A. Jones build, what loftier monument could he raise to perpetuate his memory?  Hard, indeed, it is in this day and generation to heed the Word of the Master: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth.’  The temptations are so many and so great; the world has so much to offer; the heart finds such delight in things temporal.  But how much better for themselves, their children, and their fellow men, if now in their lifetime they should begin to follow the example set by Daniel A. Jones, or the grand example set by one now on the platform, a near and dear friend of his — Mr. D.K. Pearsons.  Better for to spend one-half of an ample fortune and leave a heritage of good and generous deeds and a beloved name to your posterity than to die with all the wealth of the Indies.  There is so much need in Chicago today of more devotion to the higher interests of life, to education, philanthropies, and humanities.

People who saw the completion of Jones might not recognize it today.  That’s because of both additions to and subtractions from the structure.  When it opened, it was topped by a 150-foot-tall tower.  Today that portion of the building is gone.

In the next few weeks the Jones Building will disappear into the annals of history along with the last remaining memory of Daniel A. Jones’ impact on Chicago.  With any luck the demolition crews will be careful when they get to the cornerstone, because beneath it is a time capsule placed there by Mr. Jones’ granddaughter, Ruth.  Perhaps the contents could find their way into a display somewhere in the shiny new space-age hallways of Rush.

Location: 1753 West Congress Parkway, Illinois Medical Center

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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