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Vicariously Explore the Abandoned Edgewater Hospital with Urban Explorers Matt Tuteur and Eric Holubow

It’s probably not a surprise to Edgeville Buzz readers that I am fascinated with abandoned old buildings. There’s just something about a place stuck in history, one you aren’t allowed to see. I’m not the only one either. From the Facebook group Forgotten Chicago to the increasing popularity of urban exploring, interest in shuttered or destroyed buildings is on the rise.

Edgewater Medical Center

Picture courtesy of Eric Holubow

Unfortunately abandoned buildings aren’t usually accessible to the public or necessarily safe to visit. Luckily for the more cautious among us, there are urban explorers. Urban explorers are people who sneak into abandoned building to see and document what’s there, kindly sharing their pictures with the rest of us.

One abandoned neighborhood building that has fascinated me is the shuttered Edgewater Medical Center at 5700 N. Ashland. Notably the birthplace of Hillary Clinton, it closed in 2001 due to gross Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

I talked to two urban explorers, Matt Tuteur and Eric Holubow, to get an idea of what it’s like inside the building. Neither has been there in quite some time; it’s become increasingly structurally unsound. Two teenagers required hospitalization after an accident in 2011 and public records report potential contamination. According to Tuteur, it’s also been trashed. “A destructive south side graffiti crew gained access to the building over the winter months and virtually destroyed any historic aspects left in the building.”

Edgewater Medical Center Nurses' Pool

Picture courtesy of Matt Tuteur

Holubow also mentioned that there was extensive tagging even on his last visit several years ago.  The hospital has also suffered from being open to the elements; it particularly has extensive water damage.

Before the graffiti and the weather, it was quite a sight to see.   It feels almost aquatic, with cool turquoise tiling throughout, a sky-lit pool for nurses on the top floor, and Chicago’s first hyperbaric chamber.   Adding to this feeling are the repeated curves of areas. The nurses’ stations have curved corners, the aforementioned skylight features curved glass, and, of course, so does the hyperbaric chamber. The hospital was closed so quickly that much of the equipment – and medical records – were left in place, giving it an eerie feeling. Holub described it as having a 1950s vibe, but it actually opened in 1929, aesthetically and scientifically ahead of its time.


Picture courtesy of Eric Holubow

Both Tuteur and Holubow have a lot of experience with urban exploring, although they are driven by different goals. Tuteur describes it as an almost holy mission; to record as much as possible. “A decade ago I started to see Chicago’s gentrification process/problem begin to level historically significant structures in and around my neighborhood. I was watching Chicago’s history being squandered on a daily basis. I felt overwhelmed with a personal obligation to photograph and preserve Chicago’s adored yet endangered buildings”

Holubow describes it as more of an adrenaline rush, although he also wants to capture the feeling of a bygone era. There’s a “natural view of this type of photography or person (like you’re) actively participating in the adventure of how things were, seeing artifacts and how people did and used these things.”

For more pictures of the hospital and other abandoned Chicago buildings, Holubow’s website is here, and Tuteur’s is here.  Holubow has also recently published a book, Abandoned: America’s Vanishing Landscape.


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