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Rush University Medical Center Archives: Rush Copley Medical Center, 1886-present

Welcome to the Rush University Medical Center Archives. The Rush Archives, a department of the Library of Rush University Medical Center, is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University.

RUSH COPLEY MEDICAL CENTER, 1886-present

Brief History of Rush Copley Medical Center, 1886-present:

Aurora City Hospital, c1918, from With the Colors from Aurora, IL, 1917-1919

  • 1886: Aurora City Hospital founded.
  • 1893: Aurora Hospital Association established School of Nursing.
  • 1932: Hospital renamed Copley Hospital in gratitude to philanthropists Ira C. Copley, and his wife, Edith.
  • 1947: Copley Hospital is renamed Copley Memorial Hospital in memory of Ira C. Copley, who left a generous bequest upon his death.
  • 1976: Hospital established the Aurora Cancer Treatment Center, the Children’s Health Center and Cardiac Rehabilitation.
  • 1980: Copley Memorial Hospital joined the academic network of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago.
  • 1980: Copley School of Nursing program moves to Aurora University.
  • 1987: Copley Memorial Hospital affiliated with the Rush System for Health.
  • 1990s: Rush Copley Medical Center became the premier regional medical center for the greater Fox Valley area, with expansion into Yorkville with Rush Copley Healthcare Center.
  • 2017: Rush Copley further integrated with Rush University System for Health to build on a 30-year relationship and grow clinical programs, research, education and community priorities.

Further History:

More than 130 years ago, a child was found unconscious in a play yard in Aurora. There was no hospital at the time, so the child was taken to the local jail. That moment, according to historical accounts, provided the motivation for local residents to open Aurora City Hospital in 1886.

Many years and several name changes later, that hospital became Rush Copley Medical Center.

On Oct. 12, 1886, Aurora City Hospital opened with five physicians and 12 rooms. Then a new Aurora City Hospital opened its doors in 1890 with eight private rooms, six ward beds for women and seven for men, and five nursery beds.

Aurora Hospital Nursing School and Community-Backed Hospital Growth

The opening of the hospital created a need for more people skilled in nursing to care for patients. In 1893, the Aurora Hospital Association established a School of Nursing. In 1980, the Copley School of Nursing became part of Aurora University.

In 1905, community giving made it possible to expand the hospital. Five years later, the Aurora City Hospital Association realized the expanded facility wasn’t large enough to meet patient needs. The community banded together again, raising $103,000 to construct a five-story hospital with nearly 100 beds.

Opening in 1916, the new hospital was a full-scale community hospital and the American Hospital Association’s showcase — in fact, it appeared on the cover of Modern Hospital magazine. The hospital had 23 private rooms and capacity for 100 patients.

Copley Family Ensures New Facility Completion

Planning for a new wing began in 1927 but was soon halted due to limited funds during the Depression. Ira C. Copley, newspaper publisher and philanthropist, and his wife, Edith, pledged to the project with a gift of $1 million that guaranteed its completion.

The six-story West Wing was completed in 1932, and the hospital was renamed Copley Hospital in gratitude to Copley.

The South Wing was built in 1946, bringing the bed total to 200. In 1947, Copley died and left a $1 million endowment to the hospital. In his memory, the hospital was renamed Copley Memorial Hospital.

In 1970, the East Wing opened, which made Copley Memorial a 319-bed hospital, tripling its original size. In 1976, the hospital established the Aurora Cancer Treatment Center, the Children’s Health Center and Cardiac Rehabilitation.

Bringing Academic Health to the Fox Valley

In 1980, Copley Memorial Hospital joined the academic network of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. By 1986, Copley Memorial Hospital was serving more than 10,000 inpatients and 50,000 outpatients each year, and when the hospital affiliated with the Rush System for Health in 1987, the hospital boasted 220 physicians.

In 1992, groundbreaking began on a new hospital, and Rush Copley Medical Center opened its current location three years later with 144 beds. It became the premier regional medical center for the greater Fox Valley area, with expansion into Yorkville with Rush Copley Healthcare Center.

In 2017, Rush Copley further integrated with Rush University System for Health to build on a 30-year relationship and grow clinical programs, research, education and community priorities. Rush Copley joined the Rush University System for Health, which comprises Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital, as well as numerous outpatient care facilities.

CAPTION: Aurora City Hospital, c1918, in With the Colors from Aurora, Ill., 1917-1919, p272.

NOTE: Although the Rush University Medical Center Archives does not hold the institutional records of Rush Copley Medical Center, we welcome questions regarding its history. We will try to provide users with relevant resources or connect researchers to appropriate channels for assistance.

Using the Rush Archives

Rush Archives Service Hours: 

THE RUSH ARCHIVES IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS ON THE RUSH CAMPUS.

WE WILL TRY TO ASSIST RESEARCHERS AS BEST WE CAN USING DIGITAL RESOURCES.

PLEASE EXPLORE THIS WEBPAGE AND OUR ONLINE RESOURCES BEFORE CONTACTING THE RUSH ARCHIVES FOR ASSISTANCE.

Thank you for your patience during this unpredictable time. 

Contact the Archivist: 

Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS / (312) 942-6358

Outside of Service Hours:  For very urgent requests outside of service hours, please contact the Library of Rush at lib_ref@rush.edu

Note for researchers: Internal reference requests are given precedence. External requests will be addressed as time allows. However, our website will lead you to a number of digital resources from the Rush Archives that may meet your information needs.

Visiting the Rush Archives: In-person visits from researchers from outside of Rush must be approved by the archivist ahead of time.

Location: 1700 W. Van Buren Street, Suite 086, Chicago, IL 60612.

Using our Material in your Publication/Exhibit/Presentation: Contact the Archivist for a Permission to Publish form and fee table.

Citing our Collections: Footnotes or captions should indicate the collection or other identifying information from our finding aids. Please contact the Archivist for more information. Basic format for citation:

[Identification of item], in the [Name of Collection] [Collection Number], Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill.

Looking for Medical Records/Patient Records? Visit Rush University Medical Center's Health Information Management Office. [link]

Looking for Student Records/Transcripts? Visit Rush University's Office of the Registrar. [link]

Looking for Birth, Death or other Vital Records? Visit the Illinois Department of Public Health. [link]

About Our Collections

The Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill., is the official archival agency of Rush University Medical Center and Rush University.

The Rush Archives strives to tell the story of Rush and its esteemed history of education, research, patient care, and community leadership in a meaningful way through our collections.

The Rush Archives holds almost 3000 linear feet of material from Rush and its predecessor schools and hospitals going back to the founding of Rush Medical College in 1837, two days before the city of Chicago was incorporated. The Rush Archives also includes the personal papers of many individuals related to those institutions. Photographs, audiovisual material, paintings, artifacts, nursing school uniforms and caps, and digital assets document the history of Rush, also. 

The Rush Archives preserves, identifies, organizes, and provides access to records of long-term historical, evidential, and administrative value to the institution. 

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