Day 311 - Swedish Covenant Home
Not far from the North Park College there’s the Swedish Covenant Hospital and the Covenant Home (2725 West Foster Ave, phone 312-878-8200) that celebrated its centennial many years ago. Originally called a Home of Mercy it became a refuge for the orphan, the elderly and the sick. It was not an orphanage, nor an old people’s home or a hospital but a curious blend of all three. Today it is a modern retirement center for 120 men and women. It is one of twelve retirement communities founded by the Evangelical Covenant Church that the Swedish immigrants built. Although the records of the home were kept in Swedish until 1926, it was open right from the start - just like the hospital and the college - for people of all nationalities and denominations.
In the 1880s, two Swedish hospitals were founded in Chicago-Augustana (1884) and Swedish Covenant (1886). The idea for Swedish Covenant began with Henry Palmblad from Gränna, Sweden. Palmblad was distressed by the appalling health conditions among the newly arrived immigrants in Chicago. At the first annual meeting of the Covenant Church in Princeton, Illinois, in 1885, Palmblad spoke strongly of the need for a health facility. The following year, a Home of Mercy was opened. A historic plaque on the California Avenue side of the hospital between Foster and Winona commemorates this event.
In 1891 and 1903, two buildings were erected. The North Wing, completed in 1918, is still extant (at Foster). The South Wing, constructed in 1928, has been modernized. The hospital continues to grow and expand its facilities.
The Evangelical Covenant Church of America is rooted in the great religious revivals that swept Sweden between the 1840s and 1870s. Members of the pietistic wing of the Church of Sweden, the Mission Friends, formed the Swedish Mission Covenant in 1878 under the leadership of Paul Peter Waldenström (1838-1917). In the United States, several mission societies were formed, and in 1885, two rival synods merged into the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant Church in America, a name later changed to its present name. The church’s administration building dates from 1947.
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