In May 1886, The Altenheim, a German “Old People’s Home” in Forest Park, officially opened its doors to 75 elderly German-Americans. It was the culmination of years of effort on the part of the Frauenverein des Deutschen Altenheims, a German Women’s Society dedicated to humanitarian service and caring for the elderly. 

The building stood on grounds planned by the same landscape architect responsible for Chicago’s Lincoln Park. A structure was erected on a 20-acre plot of land in Harlem, now Forest Park. 

More than 10,000 people attended the cornerstone laying ceremony in 1884, and Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison attended the building’s dedication in May 1886. The main building was built in the gothic revival style of architecture popular in Germany at the time.

People accepted to live at The Altenheim had to have at least three years’ residence in Cook County, be over 60 years old, be incapable of further employment and have no chronic or other conditions that would prevent them from taking care of themselves.