photo by Larry Underwood
The facility itself began as the brainchild of H.D. Singer who trained in London, worked in various insane asylums in the U.S. and came to UIC in the early teens.
Dr. Singer envisioned a self-contained center where all the facets of psychiatry and neurosurgery could be found under one roof. The building stands on the grounds of West Side Park, the early home to the Chicago Cubs. Rumor has it that the phrase “out in left field” began here because the corner of Wood and Polk was actually the location of the left field seating for the ballpark.
Dr. Singer’s idea was to create a building that represented the architecture of the brain itself. The north and south towers symbolize the two hemispheres of the brain and the elevated walkway serves as the Corpus Callosum, the bridge between. The north tower (left side) is used for neurologists and neuro surgeons, the south tower (right side) for psychiatrists.
Unfortunately, Dr. Singer passed on before the completion of the project so Eric Oldberg, head of neurology and neuro surgery took over.
Dr. Oldberg planned the north tower, where our production takes place. The seventh floor contains the operating room with a northerly exposure for natural lighting. Other floors held services for outpatient, radiology, pediatrics offices and research labs, with the basement being reserved especially for primate research.
If you take a walk around the building and into the courtyard behind you’ll see stone plinths under and around the windows cast in the images of coronal or plane sections of the brain with the spinal column rising between.
Over the back entrance, one finds a keystone of the brain framed by the names of those present at the dedication, including Adolf Meyer who came from Johns Hopkins for the ground breaking and who had met Dr. Singer in an insane asylum around 1904. Dr. Singer later became the foremost psychiatrist of his field in the United States.