2130 N. Kenmore

I have had quite a few inquiries lately about Gehring Hall.  The interest is rooted in the new Illinois law that is releasing OBCs to adult adoptees.  Many adoptees are finding that their mothers listed their address as 2130 North Kenmore, Chicago, IL.  A quick google search of this address will show you that it is a building that is now part of DePaul.  What the Google search may not tell you is that in the early 1980’s, it was a maternity home for expectant mothers. I have found that there are some misconceptions about Gehring, who ran it, who stayed there, etc.  I am writing this bulleted list post to help those that may be searching.   I welcome updates to my information from anyone who has them.

  • As noted, Gehring Hall was located on 2130 North Kenmore, Chicago Illinois. This address is located in Lincoln Park, pretty much right on the DePaul University Campus. The nearest El stop serving the address at the time I lived there was Fullerton Avenue. The picture above is a picture of Gehring.
  • The home (and I use that term loosely) was associated with St. Joseph Hospital. Nearly all (as far I know) expectant mothers that resided there delivered their babies at St. Josephs
  • Many mothers who lived there also worked at St. Josephs. If you did not work at St. Joe’s you likely worked at the consignment shop the home ran around the corner. A portion of your pay check went towards your stay at the home.  Mothers also worked as nannies and babysitters for affluent Lincoln Park families.
  • Contrary to what some people have been lead to believe, Catholic Charities was not the only adoption agency placing babies born to mothers at Gehring. When I lived at Gehring mothers were there courtesy of Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Charities, Evangelical, and Easter House. (There are likely others. Please comment.)
  • While the majority of the mothers there during winter of 1986 were from IL, many were from out-of-state (as I was).  Easter House was notorious for finding mothers in other states and flying them to IL to take advantage of IL adoption laws.  Searching adoptees should not assume that their mother was from IL if she lived at Gehring.
  • To me, personally, Gehring was a prison.  I hated it and was pretty depressed during my stay.  Friends at the time (many still friends today) would say they enjoyed it, it “felt like a big dorm party”.   I had no such feelings but did my best not to show my depression, anger and disgust. It was the only place I had to live. IF I did not follow the rules, do what I was told, go to work to pay my rent, I would have been homeless.
  • Not all mothers who lived there surrendered their children. Several I know were blessed to get away with babes in arms  This generally happened with the father of the baby finally expressed support (thereby taking her away to marry her) or if the parents of the expectant mother came to their senses. I don’t know exact numbers but I will guess 5% of Gehring residents were able to bring their babies home.
  • Mothers were allowed to stay at Gehring post surrender for a few days or weeks depending on your situation.  Many had no where else to go so the home did let them stay while they figured that out.  Those that had families willing to take them back returned to their homes or their universities.  Easter House gave me a plane ticket and sent me back east to my parents. (Within weeks I would return of my own accord and start my life there on my own. Home was not an option for me.)
  • Gehring Hall closed sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. Reports state that the records went to a newly formed facility called the Madonna Center located on W. Grace. I have not been able to find truth in that statement. Several mothers attempted to located records and were unsuccessful. St. Joseph Hospital will also state they no longer have records.
  • I remember many of the names of mothers who lived there from January 1986 till June of 1986. If you were born during this time frame and your OBC lists your mothers address as Gehring, I likely knew her or know someone who did.
  • This is not specific to Gehring but I feel it is worth nothing. If your OBC does not list a father or states father unknown, do not believe that until you ask your mother herself.  My daughters father was very much known and in fact had surrendered his rights to her prior to her birth. However, since he was NOT present at the time of her birth, the records person would not allow me to put his name on her birth certificate. He had to be present and agree he was the father.  Totally fucked up if you ask me but that was the law. It disgusts me to this day.

Feel free to comment and add information that you feel may be helpful.

The Prison called Gehring Hall

Its part of Depaul now. The Theatre  Annex. This made me me laugh. Prior to be a building for a theatre department, it was a maternity home.  Prior to that, it was a convent. Something amusing in that to me. Something ironic.

Today they act in that building. We acted in that building in 1986 only we were unwed moms.We were acting okay. We were acting strong. We were acting like we could handle losing our children. We were pretending that our pain did not matter and that we did not matter to the lives of our children. We were acting good and proper and respectful. We had all been so “bad” by gettrnig pregnant. Act good now. Behave now.  Maybe we helped make that building the Theatre Annex. For sure, the building has a lot of negative energy and emotions frozen in the floors and walls. Surely, you can draw from that when you are acting.

It was a dreary building. Inside and out. Sterile. I suppose that is the former convent quality. My room was small. They all were. A single bed, a closet, a desk, a basin and mirror. Vinyl flooring. I think it was green. It was so dreary. So depressing. I used to leave the window open. January in Chicago and the window was wide open.  The girls would tease me that the could walk by my door and feel the arctic wind blow from beneath it. Not sure if the room was hot. I do remember the cold kept me awake, feeling alive. I felt that if I got too warm, if I slept too much, I might not wake up.

I hated the place. I really did. It was like prison. Oh, my girls tried their best to help. We all did. Carole, Cori, Megan, Kathleen. They all tried so hard. Put on a happy face. Forget the fact that you family, friends, the father of your child has discarded you.

I think I recall being told I was quiet and withdrawn. Carole would remember better than me. She took me under her wing. I dont know what she would remember today. What she would say. I do remember her taking me downtown for the first time and me being amazed at the skyscrapers. Looking up in wonder. Her laughing at me. Telling me I looked like a tourist. I also asked her why she was being so nice to me. She still remembers that and finds it amusing. But I meant it. No one was nice to me. Like ever. Only my daughters father and well, look where that got me? I dont remember what she said.

She made those days bearable for me. A few years older than me, wiser. A cross between a mother, sister, friend. Not sure I could have survived the time in the prison home without her.

That building has to have bad energy. Bad Karma. Kinda like the house built on the burial ground in Poltergiest. Too many women and children were separated in that house. Too many mamas cried to themselves, to the children in their wombs. I am sure the walls weep with condensation. Tears of the mothers. Tears of the children.

I stood across the street and just stared. Flashbacks of groups of pregnant women coming and going. House mothers. Megan coming back after the delivery with a cane. Her hip separated during delivery. Trudy with Jim. A lucky one that got to leave and get married. I saw them all.

Ghosts of days gone by.