This Week in Illinois History: Army Abandons Massive Hospital Complex (September 20, 1946)

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September 20, 1946 saw the end of the Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois. This huge sprawling complex occupied 99 buildings on 155 acres and was one of 60 army hospitals built during World War II. For security reasons, the military distributed its hospitals away from major population centers, and Galesburg was 200 miles from Chicago and St. Louis.

Construction on the $ 5.5 million project began in May 1943. Seventy-seven brick buildings were completed in December. The complex was named after Drs William and Charles Mayo, brothers who had served in Army’s Medical Reserve Corp and helped their father establish the mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

When the wounded soldiers arrived in February 1945, they found a complex functioning like a small town, with a library, post office, chapel, cinema and gymnasium. The hospital has treated over 18,000 patients. But at the end of the war, the military designated its hospitals as surplus. On September 20, 1946, he abandoned Mayo General Hospital in the state of Illinois.

In 1947, the University of Illinois converted the complex into a satellite campus, accommodating 3,000 students, many of them are disabled vets. But U of I canceled the program in 1949.

In 1950, the Illinois Department of Public Welfare transformed the complex into the Galesburg State Research Hospital, specializing in mental health. The hospital operated until 1985. Today, most of the original brick buildings exist as an office park.


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