IDPH 125th


Immigrants flowing into Illinois during the final years of the 19th century overtaxed housing facilities, leading state lawmakers to enact a law in 1899 creating the Division of Hotel and Lodging House Inspection. The new division inspected rooming houses and enforced standards for minimum air space and sanitation and for maximum capacity.

The law made the State Board of Health responsible for inspecting all lodging houses, taverns, inns and hotels in Chicago and for enforcing standards. However, lawmakers appropriated no funds to carry out the law's provisions until 1901, when the division was given $12,500.

Prior to the mandated inspections, the conditions in Chicago lodging houses were notoriously bad. Many were situated in basements entirely below street level, with little space between beds and bunks. The close proximity of the residents, along with a lack of adequate ventilation, created a fertile breeding ground for contagious diseases.

As Chicago's growth rate tapered off, city government was able to assume greater control over its own affairs. The introduction of municipal building regulations along with the emergence of improved techniques to control contagious diseases meant there was less need for the state to inspect Chicago's lodging houses.

Although the Department recommended over the years that the Division of Hotel and Lodging House Inspection be eliminated, it continued to operate until 1953 when it was abolished by the state legislature.

... Years Ago in Public Health

A Timeline of the Illinois Department of Public Health

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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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