Imagine getting out of your car at the hospital parking lot only to be greeted by a black Angus steer making its way between the cars. From time to time this would happen at the new Humana Hospital on Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. Next door to the hospital, at Bierman Implement on Barrington Road, Jon Bierman would get the call letting him know that his Uncle George Steinmayer’s steers were out again and walking around the hospital parking lot. Given the open nature of the western part of the township, it wasn’t too surprising that you could expect such an occurrence in the early 1980s. No one minded too much because the people of Schaumburg Township were just happy to have a hospital. It had been a long time coming.
Back in 1966 the village of Schaumburg started pushing for a hospital to be built on Schaumburg Road, on various parcels of land that now house Friendship Village and the Post Office. The plans fell through and in 1974 American Medicorp, a Pennsylvania-based development firm, sought capital to build a hospital in Hoffman Estates along Barrington Road between Higgins and Golf Roads. Promises of funding came and went and hope all but dried up as the village extended the zoning deadline for another year to May 5, 1977.
Fortunately, American Medicorp succeeded in finding the financing at the very last hour. On April 30, 1977, days before the zoning deadline was up, groundbreaking was held for the six-story, two-towered, 356-bed facility. With the Hoffman Estates High School marching band, a crowd of 200 people and dignitaries such as Senator Charles Percy and Representative Philip Crane in attendance, Hoffman Estates Mayor, Virginia Hayter proclaimed, “I hope to tell you that this (the groundbreaking) is not just a formality. The project is going ahead.” [Daily Herald, May 2, 1977]
And indeed it did. Having purchased the 18 acres for $1 million, the hospital became known as Community Hospital of Hoffman Estates until Humana Inc. bought the hospital in the midst of construction. Architects for the project were Shayman & Salk of Chicago with Pepper Construction building the $20 million hospital. Two years later–and on schedule–Suburban Medical Center Hospital of Hoffman Estates held its dedication on August 19, 1979.
On September 6, the doors were opened for business as one of the area’s only for-profit medical centers. The hospital’s round towers allowed for “a unique concept in nursing station positioning.” The “nursing stations are surrounded by the patient’s rooms. This lets nurses literally see into each patient’s room and enables them to reach patients more quickly than in corridor-designed facilities.” [Voice, August, 1979] [Daily Herald, May 2, 1977] [Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1978]
Other unique elements included an emergency care concept called “Insta-Care” which focused on care first and paperwork second and a “Day-Surgery” service that allowed “more than 200 surgical procedures to be performed on a cost-saving, same-day basis. The patient will be admitted in the morning and discharged that same afternoon and evening.” All patient rooms had “a private bath and color television and each patient has an individual telephone.” A five-story, doctors’ building was also under constrution and would “house a variety of specialists, as well as doctors in both family practice and internal medicine.” [Voice, August, 1979] Within three weeks, hospital Administrator Charles Iobe was reporting that the hospital was forced to turn away ambulance crews because the beds were full. As a result, staffing levels were increased in a big hurry and it was safe to say that the hospital was obviously a local necessity.
By July, 1983 the hospital changed its name to Humana Hospital, mimicing the name of its owner. Known for its strong obstetrics department, a $5.1 million expansion was in full swing by 1984 and was designed to increase space in the emergency room and provide for more out-patient service with a day surgery unit. The year 1991 also saw changes when another six-story doctors’ office building was added to the complex and a new maternity unit was planned. And, yet, another name change occurred on February 27 1993. Humana remained the owner but they took their name off of the building when they spun their hospital operation into a new company, Galen Health Care Inc which wanted to project more of a community rather than corporate connection. Hence, the name Hoffman Estates Medical Center.
At the same time, the hospital announced yet another addition to provide for new testing equipment. This followed on the heals of a $5.3 million maternity wing that had been added in July 1992 and a $3.5 million intensive-care unit that would open in March 1993.
In 1994 the hospital was bought by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. of Nashville for $20 million but they did not add their name to the building until 1996 when it became Columbia Hoffman Estates Medical Center. That lasted for approximately a year when “Columbia” was dropped because of their intent to sell the facility. From 1997 until 1999 the hospital name reverted to Hoffman Estates Medical Center. In February 1999, the medical center acquired its sixth name. With the purchase by Alexian Brothers Health System for $270 million, the name changed to St. Alexius Medical Center. As it remains today.
Since this purchase, the hospital has continued to expand with the opening of yet another doctors’ building, a parking garage and the extension of the circular drive through the medical campus. In April, 2011, it was announced that Alexian Brothers Health System would become part of Ascension Health. This merger allowed for an influx of capital to create the Women and Children’s Hospital that is scheduled to open this year.
Who can believe cattle ever walked through the parking lot of what has become a thriving, necessary addition to Schaumburg Township? From farms to the future…
This posting was written with the assistance of various articles from the Daily Herald, Chicago Tribune and The Voice.
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library