Kane County History: St. Charles' Delnor Hospital — A Thanksgiving Gift in 1940

Kane County History: St. Charles’ Delnor Hospital — A Thanksgiving Gift in 1940

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s post was submitted by St. Charles History Museum Director Lindsay Judd. All photos are courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum.

As early as 1923, Lester J. and Dellora A. Norris had been thinking of giving a hospital to the community. The first mention of the idea came when Lester illustrated a cartoon published in the St. Charles Chronicle asking for a vote on the public’s desire for such an undertaking.

Reaffirmed by public opinion, the Norrises donated the first funds to the St. Charles Charities, an entity created by which the Norrises could donate moneys to the city on projects that the city, the Norrises, or both deemed worthy.

Work started on the hospital in July 1939. Edward H. Fairbanks was engaged as architect, and his father, A. F. Fairbanks, was the general contractor.

From the beginning, the Norrises envisioned an acute-care community hospital that would maintain a pleasant atmosphere for the recovery of its patients. They donated more than seven acres of land covered by towering oaks along North Fifth Avenue for the site.

The Norrises selected a modern and authentic Williamsburg colonial design constructed in soft-toned red brick and white columns for the structure. They hired nationally recognized designer Dorothy Draper to decorate all non-medical areas of the hospital’s interior.

In all, the Norrises had donated the land, the building, and the equipment to furnish the completed hospital. Its final price tag was $250,000.

Dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1940, the hospital was named “Delnor” for the first three letters in Dellora Norris’ first and last names.

According to her husband, Dellora had always wanted to be a nurse, so they built Delnor partially to satisfy her medical interests. The hospital’s name gave her just recognition.

Originally, the hospital had 25 beds, a labor room, a delivery room, a nursery, an emergency room, a laboratory/radiology department, two operating rooms, a kitchen, a doctor’s lounge, and a nurses dining area. Its second story housed six dormitory rooms for staff nurses from out of town.

The original medical staff consisted of eight physicians. Cora Radke, RN, superintendent at the old City Hospital, served as the first administrator. She had a staff of 12 assisting her.

Because WWII was escalating during the hospital’s first years, graduating nurses were recruited into the armed services before they could take up civilian practice, thus making it difficult to assemble and maintain an adequate nursing staff.

The hospital relied on volunteer mothers, teachers and businesswomen who had completed training from the American Red Cross to assist the nursing staff. There were six aides to each nurse during the war.

Since the hospital’s inception, the Women’s Auxiliary has provided a variety of services. The Junior Auxiliary or Candy Stripers, and the Men’s Foundation of Delnor Hospital have also provided valuable service throughout the years.

In 1986, Delnor Hospital merged with Community Hospital in Geneva to form Delnor-Community Hospital. Both hospitals acquiesced to the merge to minimize the rising cost of medical care and provide optimum medical services to their respective communities.

Up until 1990, helicopters had been using the parking lot at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and DuPage Airport as heliports for transferring critically ill patients. That year, the Arthur Andersen company agreed to allow helicopters to land at their nearby Center For Professional Development, where the Q Center is located today.

In 1989 construction began on a new hospital at Randall and Keslinger Roads in Geneva for the newly created Delnor-Community Hospital. It opened in 1991.

In 1996, developer Milton Blair proposed some 3.5 acres of the former Delnor Hospital site be used to create a 110-unit, multi-level assisted living center for senior citizens called, Delnor Community Residential Living.

That facility opened in the fall of 1998. The name was later changed to Delnor Glen Senior Living. Over the years, Delnor Glen expanded its programs to include assisted living, memory care, and rehabilitation services.

It has since been renamed River Glen of St. Charles and still serves the community to this day.

About The St. Charles History Museum

The St. Charles History Museum is a 501©3, non-profit organization operating the St. Charles History Museum and historic archive. The museum holds more than 10,000 photographs in its archive and 15,000 artifacts in its collection.

Located in the 1928 McCornack Oil Company building at 215 East Main St., the St. Charles History Museum houses permanent and temporary exhibits, the Colonial Anderson Room, photo and research archives, the Curious Fox Gift Shop, administrative offices, and the storage-preservation repository for the museum’s collections.

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