issue Spring 2021

From the Archives: 60 Years Ago, CMS Was on the Move

By Kelly Reiss
Prolific author and head of cardiovascular research Aldo Luisada, MD (at right), illustrates a piece of equipment in his laboratory during a tour of the Chicago Medical School Institute in 1963.

Sixty years before RFU held the grand opening of the Innovation and Research Park, the Chicago Medical School Institute of Medical Research opened its doors in response to an increase in the school’s faculty and research activities, which were advancing discovery around heart disease, cancer, hereditary childhood illnesses and mental health.

The 10-story building with a marble facade was constructed in Chicago’s West Side Medical District at 2020 W. Ogden Ave. The institute was around the corner from Cook County Hospital and 710 S. Wolcott St., the building occupied by CMS since 1930. When the institute opened in 1961, each floor was designated to an area or research activity in the following disciplines: biophysics; ultrastructure; behavioral sciences; microbiology; biochemistry; enzymology and experimental hypersensitivity; metabolic research; cardiovascular research; and oncology.

2020 W. Ogden Ave. under construction in September 1960, several months before the building opened in spring 1961.

It was anticipated to provide facilities for 400 scientists and to be a training center for physicians, graduate students and technicians. After the school dedicated its new research endeavor, it was also honored to develop a Society of Sigma Xi to mark its research distinctions, a chapter that continues today.

After three-and-a-half floors of cancer research space were vacated, the decision was made to bring Chicago Medical School/University of Health Sciences under one roof at 2020 W. Ogden Ave. for the beginning of the 1968–69 school year, bringing in 280 CMS and additional students in the new School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. During this time of transition, the building was affectionately named “The House of 20/20 Vision” by the students. The vacant floors were redesigned to create classrooms, laboratories and the library. The merger was completed with minimal switching around and not a square foot of wasted space. The move couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Just weeks before the beginning of the school year, the roof of the old auditorium at 710 S. Wolcott St. collapsed.

Teaching laboratories in the new Basic Sciences Building, which opened for the 1980–81 academic year.

“Consolidation has brought a closer relationship between faculty and students, basic science departments are self-contained, one floor to each department, and it is convenient for everyone to use the library,” stated Dr. John Fudema, assistant dean for facilities planning, in ComMentS, January 1969. The labs on floors nine and 10 were redesigned to hold eight students and could be used for all the disciplines interchangeably. The small lab units gave the students privacy and a quiet place to work. At the beginning of each year, the labs were assigned to CMS students to use as a homeroom, study and laboratory center.

2020 W. Ogden Ave. remained the center of activities for the university until 40 years ago, when all operations moved to a new home in North Chicago for the 1980–81 school year.

Kelly Reiss is director of the Rosalind Franklin University Archives and the Feet First Exhibition.