Memories of the Incurables
I love left-overs. Left-over turkey, post-prandial Thanksgiving style is one of my favorites, for example.
And left-over buildings, remnants of an empire, segments of the past, and all that? Those are the best, my friends.
Young Hall hard on the northeast corner of the 56th and Ellis is just one remainder, just a solid red brick structure that probably doesn’t warrant a second look for most. Across the way is the inviting physical culture palace known as the Ratner Center and look there: ah yes, it’s Max Palavesky, designed by that gold medal winner, Ricardo Legorreta. And turn around. Sure, we’re back at basic old Young Hall.
The backstory of Young Hall is however much more fascinating than one might expect. It was part of the Chicago Home for the Incurables. How fatalistic, you say? Agreed. It’s the last remnant of a vast campus created via the last will and testament of Mrs. Clarissa C. Peck, who passed in 1884.
Once upon a time, Young Hall and its surrounding buildings were used by those who were in the last throes of rheumatism and paralysis. What did these true invalids do during their final months, weeks, and day? Well, an 1893 guide to Chicago informs us the grounds featured “a commodious reading-room and the men have a smoking room where they may indulge to their hearts’ content in the use of their favorite brands.” How droll.
So wander on by, give your best to the memories of those who were pegged as incurable a century or so ago. If you’re need of more contemporary medical healing, you can wander on over a few blocks to the south and west. But you already knew that.
The last in a weeklong series of guest posts about the “Secrets of UChicago” from Max Grinnell, a proud graduate of the College whose writings have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, Boston Magazine, and other publications. He has taught at the University of Chicago for over a decade and you can follow his musings on his website (www.theurbanologist.com) and via his Twitter feed (@theurbanologist). Thanks, Max!