American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

55 East Erie Street

ACS Headquarters Building 1963–1998

Photo of 55 E. Erie Street in October 1963. Courtesy of The Gibson Studio of Chicago.

Back in the mid-1950s, it became clear that the demands for office space could not be satisfied by the buildings that the American College of Surgeons (ACS) occupied on Erie and Rush. The four buildings: 660 N. Rush, 54 E. Erie, the Nickerson building, and the Murphy Memorial building, were either at capacity or not suited for office space. As a result, a Building Committee was appointed by the Board of Regents in October 1956 with Loyal Davis, MD, FACS, as its chairman.1 The purpose of the Building Committee was to find a new site to house the headquarters and determine how to fund the project. The committee identified the south side of Erie Street opposite the Nickerson Mansion and Murphy Auditorium as the prime location for the new ACS headquarters. Luckily, the College previously purchased the site, which at the time was two different addresses. 650 N. Rush Street was purchased in 1928 and was leased out to another company during the 1950s, and 645 N. Wabash was purchased in 1955 and was being used as a parking lot.2 When the new headquarters building was approved, both addresses were combined to create 55 E. Erie Street.

Efforts were made to raise substantial funds for the projected building through contributions made by Fellows of the College. However, it became clear that relying on contributions alone would not be enough. In 1959, after reconsideration and consultation with the Board of Governors, the Board of Regents reluctantly decided to impose a $200 assessment fee, the equivalent of about $1,750 today, as a condition of Fellowship. The Regents accepted an estimate that as many as 3,000 Fellows might resign rather than pay the fee.3 All in all, 45 Fellows stated that they were resigning to protest the assessment, and 32 Fellows were expelled for failure to pay this obligation. A total of $4,154,742 was amassed by the assessment and other gifts and contributions.4

Watercolor painting of 55 E. Erie in 1989. Painted by Fred Semmler.  Photo by Michael Tropea.

The architect selected for the new building was the Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A model of a seven-story building was produced showing floor to ceiling glass between narrow columns of exposed reinforced concrete. After consideration by the Building Committee and the Board of Regents, the plans were approved in March 1959,5 and a ground-breaking ceremony was held on October 2, 1961. During construction an eighth story was added, and the building was completed in under two years. The College moved in to the new premises on September 17, 1963, which also coincided with the 50-year anniversary of the organization. Guided tours of the building were a highlight of that year’s Clinical Congress held in Chicago. The building’s simple but effective design was admired by many and the building won a citation of merit in the local Architectural Honor Award Program.

By the mid-1990s, the ACS faced the same issue it did back in the mid-1950s. The College was outgrowing its current office space due to expansion in the Cancer and Trauma departments, and in 1998 moved to 633 N. St. Clair Street, 350 yards east of 55 E. Erie Street.


  1. Board of Regents minutes, October 1956, ACS Archives.
  2. College Properties, 12th edition, 1996, ACS Archives p.19, p23.
  3. “U.S. Inflation Calculator,” Coinnews Media Group, updated January 14, 2020,
  4. College Properties, 12th edition, 1996, ACS Archives, p. 20.
  5. Board of Regents minutes, March 1959, ACS Archives.