The hospital portion of Prentice Women’s Hospital moved out of the tower in 2007 when Northwestern Memorial built the new Prentice Women’s Hospital a block away from Goldberg’s 1975 building. Knowing Northwestern Memorial’s plans to create a new maternity hospital, preservation groups started calling on the Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) to landmark “old” Prentice. They also repeatedly asked Northwestern University (the owner of the land on which Prentice sits) to share their long-term plans for Goldberg’s hospital building. NWU officials remained stonily silent on the issue, which wasn’t surprising. The real disappointment was that the CCL refused to consider landmarking Prentice year after year.
It wasn’t until late 2009 that we began to hear rumbling that old Prentice might not be around much longer. The Stone Psychiatric Institute occupied the base of the building, but they planned to move out at some point in 201o. Once they left, Prentice would be completely vacant and ownership would revert from Northwestern Hospital back to Northwestern University (yes, they are two distinct entities). The University announced that old Prentice was to be the site of their new laboratory research facility and that it was the key to creating a “research corridor” on Streeterville campus. They planned to demolish Goldberg’s Prentice and start raising money for the new research tower, which might be built sometime in the next 5-10 year, or whenever they could raise the necessary funds.
And what would become of Prentice during those years that NWU made plans and did their fundraising? Would the building be mothballed? Would they find a temporary use that would benefit the University or the neighborhood? Nope. The site of Prentice would be cleared, planted with grass, and fenced off from the rest of the neighborhood. Even though there is entire vacant block immediately across the street from Prentice, apparently NWU decided it wasn’t suitable for their purposes. Rather than look for creative solutions to reuse Prentice, they wanted to create yet another vacant lot.
To counter Northwestern’s claims that they couldn’t reuse Prentice for laboratories, or anything else, Landmarks Illinois commissioned the Reuse Study: A New Use for a Modern Landmark in 2011. The study demonstrated that Goldberg’s open floor plan and flexible spaces could be easily adapted to at least three new uses: offices, residential, and research laboratories. NWU then commissioned their own study claiming that Prentice could not accomodate the specific kind of research labs they wanted. They did not address other reuse options.
Prentice, like much of Chicago’s Modern architecture from the 1950s-1980s, is not listed as a Chicago landmark. Local preservation advocates are concerned that there is no protection for Bertrand Goldberg’s Modern masterpiece and nothing will prevent Northwestern from proceeding with demolition. As a result of this threat, Prentice was listed as one of Landmarks Illinois’ Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and it was named one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places in 2011. The Save Prentice Coalition organized a rally in June 2011 to announce that Prentice was placed on the national listing, which drew press coverage from across the country.
The Coalition continues to fight every day to save Prentice through an on-line petition to Mayor Emanuel, an ad campaign on the Chicago CTA, the Save Prentice Facebook page, and a series of Chicago Modern: More than Mies events. Don’t let Prentice fall to the wrecking ball like so many other great Chicago buildings. Please get involved and join us in our fight to protect and preserve Prentice Women’s Hospital!