The history of hospitals in Rochelle

One of the earliest doctors to serve Rochelle was Dr. D.W. Vaile. He started his medical practice in Rochelle during 1853. He was one of several doctors to serve the community.

It wasn’t until 1907 that Dr. Josephine Kennedy opened the first hospital. Located at 115 S. Washington St., and the Kennedy Hospital served the Rochelle area for two years. Dr. Kennedy performed operations and cared for patients in her hospital. Up until that point, patients were 

treated in their own homes.

By 1909, Dr. Kennedy had decided to close her hospital. In 1983, the house was razed and the land is now part of the parking lot for the Vince Carney Community Theater. Rochelle though had decided that having a hospital was essential to public health. A new facility was needed, and the search began.

For five years city officials and local civic leaders worked toward securing a hospital for the people of Rochelle. W.A. Wolf owned a two-story apartment building on the corner of 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue. Mr. Wolf agreed to trade his property for property in Compton, Illinois owned by Dr. A.W. Chandler. Dr. Chandler also received $8,500 to relocate to Rochelle and become the director of the new hospital.

The two-story building was remodeled including the addition of a third story. By 1915, the Lincoln Hospital was ready to serve the public. Dr. Chandler and staff oversaw a 40-bed hospital with surgical service.

The early 1920s saw the addition of Drs. Bogue and Schaller to assist Dr. Chandler. In 1925, Dr. Petritz of Rockford purchased a half interest in the Lincoln Hospital as Dr. Chandler moved toward retirement.

For the next few years, the Lincoln Hospital served the community well. The Great Depression of 1929 brought great hardship to the hospital and in 1930 the Lincoln Hospital closed due to bankruptcy.

Mrs. Marie Talcott leased the hospital in 1931 and later purchased the structure. Talcott had a medical background and had managed medical facilities before. Talcott turned the business around and once again Rochelle could provide an excellent hospital.

A substantial fire broke out at the hospital in 1941. Smoke poured from the windows and hundreds of people gathered outside the scene of the blaze. Fortunately, the fire department and hospital staff were able to evacuate all of the patients.

Local residents welcomed the hospital patients into their homes. Mrs. Edward Carls, who was removed from the delivery room at the hospital and taken to the home of her brother-in-law, Frank Hewitt on 6th Street, gave birth to a son an hour and a half later.

The hospital was repaired but not before several deficiencies were identified. Mrs. Talcott sold the hospital to John Tilton. Mr. Tilton expressed a desire to convert the hospital back into an apartment building. The City of Rochelle negotiated with Mr. Tilton and the City of Rochelle Hospital organization was formed in 1942.

The city rented the building for $250 a month. Mrs. Molly Abbott became the superintendent and managed the facility for the city. One major change instituted by Mrs. Abbott was the opening of the facility to all local doctors.

From 1942 through 1945, the Rochelle City Hospital was managed through the City of Rochelle. A bond issue was voted on and passed in 1943, and funds began to be raised to construct a new, state-of-the-art hospital in the 900 block of North 2nd Street. October 1945 saw the setting of the corner stone and construction began in earnest. The new City of Rochelle Hospital could serve 25 patients and offered a newly-upgraded operating room and nursery. The city council once again met with local leaders and it was decided that the hospital should be managed as a not-for-profit, not under the control of the city council, but under the direction of an independent hospital board.

In 1965, the city transferred control of the hospital to the hospital board. From these humble beginnings, the local hospital has continued to thrive, providing life-saving services to all of Rochelle and Ogle County. 

Tom McDermott is a Flagg Township Museum historian and Rochelle city councilman.


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