Exterior view of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, named after Oak Park, Ill. coin machine manufacturer David Gottlieb, who donated $500,000 for the original 1959 structure. (Credit: Epstein Global)

For this week’s walk down memory lane, we visit Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

Local construction and engineering firm A. Epstein and Sons Inc. was hired in 1959 to expand the general-treatment facility, then a 120-bed medical institution. Over the next six years, the company designed additional floors and enlarged ancillary services, nearly doubling the number of beds to 225.

When the first phase was completed in 1961, a marketing mailer touted the facility’s state-of-the-art technology: a heating and air conditioning system powered by radiant ceiling panels, remote-control television, a bedside-operated audio and visual nurses’ call system; “ ... in general, the interiors are pleasing and designed for patient comfort.”

“Interesting to see that patient comfort was finally considered an important design element,” notes Noel Abbott, Epstein’s vice president, director of marketing and public relations, adding that today, enhancing the patient experience is almost the No. 1 hospital concern.

Nurses’ station. A May 17, 1959, Chicago Daily Tribune article stated that future building expansion would include a school for nursing, an initiative that didn’t happen, according to Alan Goldberg, the hospital’s vice president of administrative services. (Credit: Epstein Global)

Gottlieb’s distinctive entrance canopy also created a stir within the medical community, because it was considered too “showy,” Abbott says; however, this feature eventually was duplicated nationwide.

While Gottlieb has been expanded numerous times during the past 50 years, elements of Epstein’s original design are still visible. The facility merged with Loyola University Health System in 2008 and became part of Trinity Health System in 2011. A. Epstein and Sons Inc. also has grown and is now Epstein Global.

Entrance canopy for the 1961 addition. A May 17, 1959, Chicago Daily Tribune article stated that original building plans included a “radiation-resistant” bomb shelter in the basement. The shelter was never built, says Goldberg. (Credit: Epstein Global)

For a hospital that was once deemed overwrought, Abbott finds it fascinating that the building’s architecture is now considered a fine example of mid-century modernism. “Gottlieb’s design is neither glitzy nor controversial, but instead, elegant, efficient and, best of all, timeless,” he says.


 

Aerial view of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in 1961. The campus was originally 7 acres and now encompasses 36 acres. (Credit: Epstein Global)

Mary Beth Klatt is a writer specializing in architecture and design.