History of La Rabida

For the Chicago World's Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893, the government of Spain constructed its exhibition hall as a replica of Spain’s La Rabida Monastery – the embarkation site of Columbus’ new world exploration in 1492.

A Gift from Spain
After the fair, the Spanish Consulate donated the building, located on Lake Michigan at Jackson Harbor to the City of Chicago for use as a fresh air sanitarium for sick children. A group of volunteer women led the effort to equip and staff the facility, raising money for operations and recruiting volunteer physicians.

Supported by Donors and Volunteers
The Women's Board of La Rabida made it their mission to provide a “medical refuge for sick children” and relief for "tired and weary mothers.”

Early in its history, La Rabida was saving the lives of children who suffered from illnesses and diseases associated with slum squalor and unsafe food handling practices. Children acquired severe and sometimes fatal illnesses from milk and food that had not been stored and cooled properly.

For generations, La Rabida has responded to the medical needs companion to the time. As food handling technology improved, La Rabida turned its attention to rheumatic fever which was claiming the lives of young children between the 1930s through the 1950s. The hospital gained international recognition for research that led to the eradication of the disease.

Now, a Specialty Hospital
In the 1960s, with the threat of rheumatic fever quelled, La Rabida made a formal commitment to treat the chronic illnesses of childhood.

Today, La Rabida employs some of the nation’s top professionals who provide treatment of lifelong medical conditions, including asthma, cerebral palsy, diabetes, Down syndrome, sickle cell disease, and developmental disabilities. It also provides Illinois’ most extensive hospital-based programs for child abuse and trauma, serving as a model for other health care institutions across the U.S.