North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Deejo (
Date: September 12, 2011 03:29AM

Went on a walk today at the North Park Village Nature Center that was designed to highlight some of the remnants/traces of human activity in what is now the nature preserve. Many remnants/traces of the former tuberculosis sanitarium, including the foundations of demolished cottages (one now inhabited by a family of raccoons), portions of sidewalk, and sewer manholes in woodland groves.

The most intriguing thing was in the far NW corner of the preserve, just east of the firehouse, where we found dozens of broken china fragments - of dishes and cups - that appeared to date from the sanitarium, plus fragments of old milk bottles and a 2-in wide metal bottle cap inscribed "Mallinckrodt," which I think refers to a pharmaceutical company.

Also in the NW corner was a sunken concrete building, with stairs leading down and only 3-4 feet above ground; there is a similar one on the Bryn Mawr side but our guide did not know the purpose of such structures.

Our guide also mentioned that there is an underground tunnel system throughout the property, but did not know if the concrete buildings were entrances to such system.

The most interesting thing she told us about - which will have to wait for another visit - is that in the woods on the Central Park side of the property, north of Bryn Mawr, there is a length of cobblestone street and a concrete bench, entirely hidden from the street and any marked trails. I did not bring a camera today but may bring one for the return trip.

I would be interested in knowing if anyone has knowledge of this property and/or the sanitarium or other periods of its history.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: StrayKitten (66.28.242.---)
Date: September 12, 2011 12:35PM

I would be interested in this tour. Could you please post when you hear of the next one? Thanks!

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Mornac (
Date: September 12, 2011 12:56PM

My mom’s uncle spent some time as a patient there when he was young. When I was growing up in the 60’s I remember passing the place at night and seeing the brightly lit yellow neon sign over the entrance at the NE corner on Peterson. Here’s what it looked like in daylight:

In recent years my daughter belonged to the Park District tumbling team that uses this building:

It looks as though it may have been an auditorium of some sort. I always wondered what the purpose of this tower was:

[url=]Here's an interesting article.[/url]

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: FranCarmen (
Date: September 12, 2011 03:07PM

I've been doing some research on MTS for the past few years and writing about it on my blog, which is where [url=]the photo of the service entrance gate came from.[/url] My friend Jennifer Stix is the photographer of the picture. I have never seen another photograph of this sign, so I though it was very lucky to find a friend had shot it.

I lived on Central Park, across the street from the MTS, and Jennifer, a high school friend, took the photo some time early 1970s. All the guard houses are still standing. The one on the corner of Peterson and Central Park was for the service entrance. There are two guard houses at what was the main entrance, Pulaski and Bryn Mawr, but the public has no access to these buildings. If you can get in the admin building when it is open (weekdays), you'll find some good photographs on the wall in the hallway.

There was a complete underground tunnel system connecting every building including the laundry/power plant. It was used to transport food and linens, and the staff also used it so they didn't have to go outside during the winter to get from one building to the other. The tower is part of the power plant building. The building that now houses the gymnastics program was in fact an auditorium and local name entertainers were brought in for shows for the patients who were well enough to attend. I heard that it was quite ornate prior to being remodeled.

The neon sign was never yellow but appears slightly yellowish in the photo due to the flash. It had white neon with hot pink for the Cross of Lorraine, which is a symbol adopted in the fight against TB. There is some more information on my blog about MTS, including interviews with a medical resident and a patient.

I encourage other who know something of the MTS history to leave a comment on my blog so that we can track down all the stories. Thanks.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/2011 04:59PM by FranCarmen.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Deejo (
Date: September 13, 2011 02:00AM

Thanks for the great information. I will try to post when I hear the next tour of this sort. The Nature center offers dozens of free nature walks and other programs, but this is the first I've seen that explored the human remnants/traces aspect of the facility. The Nature Center website is here:

and the Newsletter, which lists all the programs, is here:

With regard to the gate in the photo above, it was located at Peterson and Central Park? So was there a driveway there - which is now a walking path? Does the walking path follow the same course as the driveway? Or did the driveway go across what is now the soccer field in Peterson Park?

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Deejo (
Date: September 13, 2011 02:12AM

Also, there are several photos of the MTS available in the American Memory Database - specifically, the Daily News collection:

Search by Keyword e.g., "Tuberculosis" or "Sanitarium" etc.

Also, our guide mentioned that the tower pictured above was part of a crematorium.
She indicated that there were numerous ghost stories about the property as a result of it being a sanitarium, the existence of the crematorium, and the mysterious presence of the tunnel system. She said that the ghost stories and resultant reputation of the place was one of the obstacles to any use of the property during the 1970's and 1980's.

She also said at one point the whole site was going to be bulldozed and turned into a shopping center called Green Acres.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/13/2011 04:28AM by Deejo.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: FranCarmen (
Date: September 13, 2011 11:29AM

There was a road around the TB sanitarium, within the fence, where the guards patrolled daily by car. We would see them at least twice a day. The bike path follows that road but I can't tell whether they have modified the path or followed it exactly. It's pretty close. From our house we could easily see the path and the guards driving by.

The fence at Peterson and Central Park was originally a service entrance. I don't know exactly when they stopped using it, but in the photo you can see there is a sign that directed people to the Bryn Mawr and Pulaski entrance. We moved in on Central Park in 1963, and don't recall ever seeing the gate open.

At the Central Park and Bryn Mawr end, there was a field that is now grown in. Back in the late 40s and '50s, boys in the neighborhood would jump the fence and play football in the field. Where the soccer fields are today, there was a farm. They grew produce for the hospital. There was a barn to store the farm equipment as well.

The story of the fight to save the land as open space has been extremely well documented. The mayor wanted to develop the land into a shopping mall and high rise development with buildings similar to Winston Towers. The community organized to fight the development and succeeded. I think the guide may be enhancing the story somewhat. There was an incinerator, not a crematorium. Also you can view detailed original plans for the MTS [url=]online.[/url]

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: logansquare60647 (
Date: September 14, 2011 06:23AM


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2011 06:25AM by logansquare60647.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: logansquare60647 (
Date: September 14, 2011 06:24AM

Oh the TB Sanitarium. Where do I begin. I grew up across the street, the 6000 block of Central PK, in the 80s. I'm much much younger than many of you, but hold the history of my youth and city quite dear to my heart, and am glad to have a forum to share my memories.

My parents were holding out on buying the house we'd eventually occupy until they knew that Peterson Park wouldn't be converted to a commercial and residential buildings as was the original plan. So in '79, they bought the house after it was finally decided it would be turned into a park.

Some of my earliest memories are that of my mom bringing me there to the cement laden playgrounds, there's two. The one just south of the tennis courts, and the one just south of Peterson on the western side of the park. Many an injury I accrued there, these days its all woodchips. How times have changed, along with bicycle helmets and saftey belts being the norm.

That guard house on the corner of Central Pk and Peterson was actually turned into a hot dog stand in about '87 or '88. Anybody remember that? It was a short lived venture, maybe lasted a summer or two, but was quite nice to walk with my dad and grab a hotdog right there on our corner.

In about '84 my parents got my older brother and I in the day camp at Peterson Park. It was called "Play Camp," as I still remember. We had the t-shirts and everything, they were white, with green logos of the Y-Device on the front.

I used to ride my bike through the trails, the ones that start at the tennis courts, and would try and jump that first dirt ramp, it was tough. It's were I got my first concussion. I used to ride there by myself all the time on my BMX, and apparently one day, I still to this day do no know what exactly transpired, but I guess I hit my head pretty bad. And I ended up back at my house, surreal and distraught. My bike was badly damaged, with the brakes locked up, my brother told me that I said to him that I carried the bike home. I have no recollection of any of that.

The diamonds there, as much as a ball player as I was (played seriously at River Park for years) all went largely unused, as anybody else can attest to. We'd actually play ball in front of the tennis courts, so that the fence could be a home run. They since have planted trees there, so I guess no kids can play ball there.

The main basketball court was always a great place to get a pick up game, but now they took the hoops away, and you have to play on the west one. We'd also do a roundup every morning there when I went to day camp.

The Haunted Trails, which these days seem a shadow of themselves, used to be real scary, because they'd take you to the back part, behind the fence, behind the fieldhouse. I remember waiting in line with my parents to enter, and it was terrifying. At the end there were huge circus tents in which we'd drink hot cider at picnic tables.

When they reconstructed the main playground and put up the pirate ship, it was a favorite place for my friends and I to hang out and smoke pot.

Now on to the actual sanitarium. Growing up, it was all still there. The buildings were boarded up. If you walk south outbound, by the fieldhouse, and make a left, down that path, there used to be a cottage house. And we'd go there and rummage around. I remember seeing devil warship stuff, dead chickens, and pools of blood. I even stuck my thumb in one of the pools of blood once. It was quite scary.

The other buildings, including the church, to the west, were still in tact. We used to pull the rope, which was still attached, on the church bell and make it ring.

As far as the hospital buildings, we'd sneak in there, pull out the plywood. Let me tell you, it was the most scariest thing you could ever imagine. Imagine being in a real life horror movie, that was it.

Walking down those corridors, it was as if they left over night. Stacks upon stacks of old chest x-rays were just scattered everywhere. Equipment was left, barren and collecting dust. As a ten year old kid, I can tell you I had nightmares of my experiences walking in there. All those buildings, just left as was, as if the staff literally left overnight, leaving everything. We were left to wander the dark hallways. My friend even stepped on a rusty nail, and had to get a tetnus shot after we told him how bad that was.

Going around that initial curve going east of the fieldhouse, you'd hit that brick paved road somebody mentioned, after the devil warshipper cottage. And you'd see a rusty set of old gates and the beginning of the stone cobbled path. We used to call that the gates to hell. Walking further, you'd see the concrete bench, then you take the path further along, curving west along bryn mawr along the prarie, and it'd take you to our old hang out spot. We called it the "Reservation." It's a sunken in sinkhole, filled with bolders, where we'd sit and smoke and drink and be crazy teenagers. Walking further you'll see a old foundation of a building, where we'd also hang out.

As far as the North Park Nature Center, we'd sneak in there all the time too. They were open until 5pm, and sometimes after school we'd go there and see the animals and hang out. I actually adopted a rabbit there, and gave them money. His name was Pier. I still remember that. I think he was named after Pier Peterson, I'm guessing. But we'd go back there by the pond, and run around playing capture the flag. There definitely is tunnels, you can see them when you walk around. There are sunken in staircases leading to them scattered throughout.

They wrecked most of the hospital buildings since then, and it's a lot of condos. But I'm glad I got to grow up across the street from such an adventurous playland.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: 222psm (
Date: September 14, 2011 11:28AM

I just love reading stories like this, it brings back memories of our "scooby" adventures.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2011 11:39AM by 222psm.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: WayOutWardell (
Date: September 14, 2011 02:10PM

Was the cottage-type building located on Central Park, mid-block, close to the street? I didn't live in the area but my childhood dentist's office was on Peterson east of Drake, and I was mesmerized/scared by the tower that I'd see sticking up out of the trees when we'd be driving on Peterson to his office. My mother once took me to the 31 Flavors on Peterson and I convinced her to walk over to the park so I could see the tower, and I vaguely remember a boarded-up house overgrown with brush (early 80s). My dad told me that a friend of his was a patient there (late 50s), and the neighborhood guys would sneak him out from time to time, which couldn't have been good for anyone involved.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: FranCarmen (
Date: September 14, 2011 04:40PM

I think you are probably recalling the groundskeeper's cottage, which was located near Ardmore and Central Park. My friends who lived on that block remember that the groundskeeper had a young daughter, but she never played with the neighborhood kids.Over the years I have heard many stories of patients sneaking out, none first hand. We had a teacher at Peterson School (the local elementary school) who warned us away from the small snack shop/candy store/soda fountain at the NW corner of Pulaski and Bryn Mawr. But he could have been joking. I've discovered in recent years that most of the kids who grew up on Central Park heard the same threats from their parents: "behave or I'll send you across the street." One thing for sure: I have heard heard many first-hand reports from people who recall sneaking in over the fence. In the fifties, as I mentioned it was to play football. Later it was for drinking parties.

I did find in the Tribune archives that in the 1940s, the Peterson School PTA sponsored a Christmas outing to the TB sanitarium, where the school kids distributed treats and sang carols. Not every one was contagious. Patients weren't discharged until they tested negative, but once they were not contagious and well enough, they had visitors regularly. As the doctor explained it to me, some people took years before they tested negatively, even if they were basically cured, due to a condition which is too complicated for me to explain. So some people weren't that sick but couldn't be discharged. There was a school on the premise (considered a branch of Peterson) and lots of activities. For some, not all patients, it was a very positive experience. Most of the patients came from low income homes. It was a public hospital and people who could afford a private hospital would have chosen that option rather than a public hospital.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: 222psm (
Date: September 14, 2011 04:50PM

We used to roam this area when we cut school from Roosevelt back in the mid 80's, we'd hang out in La Bagh woods. One day we where walking the track that ran in the woods and went East on Bryn Mawr and killed some time in the cemeteries. We where at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Pulaski, I can't believe we missed this place, it would have been awesome to explore!

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Deejo (
Date: September 15, 2011 03:16AM

FranCarmen, I read all your blog posts about the MTS - thanks so much. Thanks for correcting me re: the tower - not a crematorium. In defense of the guide, however, she did not purport to know everything about the facility and was not attempting to sensationalize anything about the property - she was passing on what she heard and was not representing it as authoritative.

Thanks also for the link to the online book with all the plans, which is outstanding. The map of the grounds in there is the first one I've seen that allows me to visualize where things were as compared to where they are now. One correction to some info. on your blog - I believe that the building housing the Nature Center now was the medical dispensary or "unit administration building," not a cottage. This is explained in the online book, and the plans show the nature center building sitting among the cottages but with a different plan. It also was made of reddish brick, while the cottages appear to be wooden, or at least white in color.

Anyway, thanks again. I will post photos of the cobblestone road if/when I go to check it out.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: FranCarmen (
Date: September 18, 2011 12:25AM

Deejo, you are right; the Nature Center is the dispensary. I was corrected by someone who was a patient there, but I have been having a problem with my blog. If I edit published pages, feedburner sends out old posts to my subscribers.

What I may do is write a new post and update that information about the nature center being the former dispensary. Actually, I plan to soon launch a blog devoted to the MTS, in hopes of attracting more stories from former patients and staff. thanks for checking out the blog.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: ChiTownJim (
Date: October 05, 2011 11:55AM

I don't know if this would help, but check out [u]The Municipal Control of Tuberculosis in Chicago[/u], written by Dr Theodore Sachs and the Municpal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. It is on Google Books and is a free read. It is written in 1915, and gives information such as floor plans of the various buildings. I haven't read it all, but I plan to.There are also other Books you can look at if you search 'Municpal Tuberculosis Sanitarium'.
I was looking up information because I think one of my Great grandmother's brothers was hospitalized there.

Re: North Park Village/Tuberculosis Sanitarium
Posted by: Mikey (
Date: December 06, 2013 07:05PM

In the 1960s, as a teen, I'd walk along the fence along the east side of the property (Central Park ave). I never wanted to try to get inside because I'd heard all the "horror stories" about the place. But one distinct memory I have of the place is that "road" that followed the fence; the area was filled with pheasants! I'd never seen them in the Chicago area until then, and never did again. Strange.


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