Illinois Central Hospital has succumbed to the wrecking ball. Steeped in railroad lore, the 95-year-old building at 5800 South Stony Island Avenue, occupied nearly a city block. After 1973, when the Illinois Central Railroad sold the building, it operated as Hyde Park Community Hospital and Doctors Hospital. Several years ago, it was closed and, as covered extensively in Hyde Park Progress, has been the focus of pain and strife——pain and strife of a brand that Hyde Park often seems to revel in.
As the fate of the building was debated, self-proclaimed preservationists tried in vain to make their case. When some of them suggested saving at least the front semicircular driveway, portico and entrance, it was pointed out that those were additions made in the late 20th Century. Indeed the original entrance was a small stairway and a door Think the hospital entrance in The Godfather, where Michael Corleone and the baker protected Vito Corleone from assassins.
The IC Hospital served the public and was free to the railroad’s employees. If you worked anywhere on the railroad from Cairo, Illinois (pron. Karrow) north, you used the IC Hospital in Chicago. South of Cairo, you went to the IC’s southern hospital, which was either in Jackson, Mississippi or Memphis, Tennessee. Chicago headquarters notwithstanding, the IC was at heart a southern company. Even in the Chicago offices, there was plenty of drawling and ya’lling, not to mention the twanging that sprang forth from the Iowa Division.
I will remember the hospital fondly, except of course for the lower GI portion of the compulsory annual physical. Administered without sedation, the exam was conducted with a now-little-used rigid instrument called a Proctoscope. It was about a foot long, the size of a piccolo, but in railroad mythology had the dimensions of a Louisville Slugger.
So, farewell, old temple of medicine. You did not pass quietly into the night, but your absence will do Hyde Park the favor of having one less thing over which to Proctoscope itself.