EDGEWATER — From their Andersonville home, Todd Ganz and Stephani Young could see the Edgewater Hospital, a hulking medical campus that for years sat vacant, decaying and waiting for redevelopment.
“I’d go for walks and see this place and think, “Is this even open?'” said Ganz, who moved to Andersonville in 2007, 10 years before the campus was demolished. “It began with the curiosity and mystery. We learned more, and these stories blew our minds.”
Ganz and Young used that curiosity — and their expertise as radio professionals — to launch a podcast series about the history of the Edgewater Hospital. “If The Walls Could Talk” debuted its first episode Sunday. Its remaining 11 episodes will debut on Sundays and is available on most podcast platforms.
The podcast covers the Edgewater Hospital’s early days as a glitzy medical center that served the North Side during Chicago’s Jazz Age, to its last days, when heinous insurance fraud led to patients dying and hospital administrators facing prison time.
Dr. Maurice Mazel opened Edgewater Hospital at 5700 N. Ashland Ave. in 1929. Equipped with a solarium, pool and a helipad, the hospital was known for its white-glove service, and was used more like a hotel by figures including Frank Sinatra.
In its early days, the hospital was known for its high-end service and cutting-edge treatment. It is the birthplace of Hillary Rodham Clinton and serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
When Dr. Mazel died in 1980, the hospital’s decline was stark and salacious.
In 2001, the hospital’s management company and several doctors were indicted on a massive medical insurance fraud scheme. Doctors were accused of admitting patients, including homeless Chicagoans, for medical treatment and procedures they did not need in order to boost the facility’s profits. Most of those unnecessary treatments were covered by Medicare.
Two patients died as part of the scheme, Ganz said. The hospital’s one time owner and manager, Peter Rogan, even fled to Canada to avoid prosecution. He was convicted in 2015 for lying about his assets to try to prevent paying $188 million in civil judgments against him.
Edgewater Hospital closed in 2001 after the government halted payments to the hospital through Medicare and Medicaid programs. It was finally demolished in 2017, after years of sitting vacant and becoming a destination for urban explorers and graffiti artists.
That overview just scratches the surface of the hospital’s sordid history, Ganz and Young said. “If The Walls Could Talk” details first-person accounts of the hospital and former hospital workers, and includes interviews with an FBI agent who investigated the facility.
“The more I looked into this, the more I said, “I can’t believe they got away with this for so long,'” Young said. “Our main goal is to tell the entire story. We want to tell you the story you can’t find on Google.”
The podcast comes at a noteworthy time in the medical campus’s history.
Most of the campus has been demolished, save for two buildings fronting Ashland that have been redeveloped into apartments. Now known as Anderson Point, the redeveloped apartment building has recently started leasing.
Space that used to house medical buildings has been leveled and will house a new public park. Work on the park is slated to begin this year, according to Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th).
The campus’ demolition was protracted because of asbestos issues and a contractor claiming they were unpaid for their work. That left a massive debris pile and runoff water pond on the site, which was an eyesore and health hazard for the neighborhood, Ganz said.
The campus’ new chapter will be a good one for the neighborhood, he said.
“The neighbors have watched these buildings crumble, get tagged, have trespassers,” Ganz said. “Everyone was ready to turn the page.”
Though the former medical campus is finally beginning its new life, it is important to remember the history of the site as a precautionary tale of the dark side of the medical industry, Young said. Hopefully the podcast helps in that regard, she said.
“It’s a history lesson combined with a lesson on the medical field, and how that system can backfire,” she said. “Because this is still going on today. It’s scary.”
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