Leaders & Legacies: Eudora Hull Gaylord Spalding, a pioneer for health care

Leaders & Legacies: Stories of Local Impact is an ongoing series brought to you in partnership with the Daily Herald and DuPage Foundation. It highlights the inspiring stories of local individuals, families, and businesses that have made or are making a lasting impact for our community through their generosity and leadership.

The series continues with Eudora Hull Gaylord Spalding (1867-1942).

In a time before women even had the right to vote, Eudora Hull Gaylord Spalding built the foundation for what would become one of our region's largest hospitals. Through her drive to help others, she created a place that saved countless lives over a span of 115 years.

But that isn't where Eudora's influence ends. Today, her legacy also lives on at one of the nation's top universities nearly 2,000 miles away from her childhood home.

Eudora Hull was born in 1867 with her twin brother, Martin, and resided in Naperville with her family. She was married to Edward Gaylord in 1897 until his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1904.

It soon became Eudora's mission to do something impactful to honor his life.

A two-bedroom women's room at Edward Sanatorium in Naperville in 1932. Courtesy of Edward Hospital

In 1906, Eudora purchased nearly 40 acres of former farmland, located a quarter-mile south of Naperville, and built a structure intended to care for tuberculosis patients.

Named the Edward Sanatorium, the facility opened on Jan. 15, 1907.

It was one of the first tuberculosis treatment centers in the Great Lakes region and served as a model for others across the country. Patients would stay a minimum of six months and were exposed to fresh air and lived in sleeping tents.

The Edward Sanatorium opened on Jan. 15, 1907, on nearly 40 acres of former farmland, located a quarter-mile south of Naperville. The facility was named after Edward Gaylord, Eudora's first husband who had died of tuberculosis. Courtesy of Edward Hospital

A fire destroyed the sanatorium's main building in 1920, and a new structure was built at the cost of $150,000. In the 1930s, the Sanatorium expanded its services thanks to the financial support and leadership of Joy Morton, the owner of the Morton Salt Company and founder of The Morton Arboretum. (Joy Morton was featured in a 2021 Leaders & Legacies article.)

After advances in medicine and new drugs eradicated tuberculosis in the 1950s, the sanatorium's board of directors voted to turn Edward Sanatorium into Edward Hospital to meet the growing need from the community. With a mere 45 beds, Edward Hospital officially opened on Oct. 1, 1955.

Today, the hospital is a full-service health care provider with 352 private patient rooms. In 2013, Edward Hospital & Health Services and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare merged to become Edward-Elmhurst Health system, one of the larger integrated health systems in Illinois.

In 1906, Eudora Hull Gaylord married Keith Spalding, an heir to Spalding Sporting Goods. Courtesy of Fillmore Historical Museum

While Eudora established the sanatorium, she met Keith Spalding, an heir to Spalding Sporting Goods. The company was started in 1876 by his uncle, Albert Goodwill Spalding, who was a former pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings. He launched the company while he was the manager of the Chicago White Stockings and developed the first major league baseball to become the official baseball of the National League in 1876 and the American League in 1889.

In 1906, a 39-year-old Eudora Hull Gaylord married the 29-year-old Keith Spalding.

Keith had spent some time in California, so when Eudora inherited property in The Golden State, it was an easy move. In 1888, her father, Congressman Morton Hull, purchased a ranch property called Rancho Sespe near Pasadena, California.

A view of Rancho Sespe's sprawling land in 1920. Rancho Sespe was operational for 155 years, through 1988, and produced citrus fruits, walnuts and Aberdeen Angus cattle. Courtesy of Fillmore Historical Museum

According to the Fillmore Historical Museum, Rancho Sespe was an 8,881-acre Mexican land grant in present-day Ventura County, California, given in 1833 by Gov. José Figueroa to Carlos Antonio Carrillo.

The grant encompassed the Santa Clara River Valley between Piru Creek on the East and Santa Paula Creek on the West, and was bounded to the north and south by the mountains, and included the area now known as the town of Fillmore, California.

Before the railroad swept through the area in 1887, people lived a simple life in the valley raising sheep and cattle.

After multiple owners bought and sold pieces of land surrounding Rancho Sespe, Morton Hull purchased 2,200 acres, which was passed on to Eudora. She bought her brother's share of the inherited property and moved with Keith to Pasadena to live near and operate the ranch.

Eudora Hull Gaylord Spalding holds a bird at her private aviary near Rancho Sespe in 1928. Courtesy of Fillmore Historical Museum

The Spaldings built a bungalow in 1910 on a hilltop to oversee the ranch and opened an aviary near the home. They were well-liked by their more than 250 employees, many of whom were skilled cowboys, farmers, blacksmiths and electricians.

While overseeing the ranch, the Spaldings enjoyed duck hunting and sport fishing near Catalina Island, where they each caught record-breaking fish from their yacht, The Goodwill, named after Keith's uncle. Eudora's best catch was a 426-pound broadbill tuna.

In 1921, Keith was elected president of the Tuna Club, the oldest fishing club in the country, founded in 1898. The year before her record broadbill, Eudora caught a 116-pound tuna that should have qualified for an award from the club, but she was not a member because women weren't permitted.

Eudora Hull Gaylord Spalding enjoyed sport fishing and often caught broadbill tuna off Catalina Island. Courtesy of Fillmore Historical Museum

When Eudora passed away in 1942, Keith became executor of her estate and created an endowment fund at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) called the Spalding Trust Fund. Some of the land occupied by the ranch was also donated to Caltech for its campus expansion.

In 1957, Keith allocated funds from the trust to build Caltech's Eudora Hull Spalding Laboratory, a $1.5 million project that brought the chemical and electrical engineering departments together under a new space.

The Eudora Hull Spalding Laboratory of Engineering building opened at Caltech's campus in 1957. Courtesy of Caltech Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Keith remained a Caltech trustee from 1942 until his death in 1961. In 1969, the Keith Spalding Building of Business Services was dedicated in his honor and houses Caltech's mail and procurement services, a science center and ticket office.

From health care to education, the impact of the Spaldings' generosity has endured for generations - both locally and nationally.

In 1990, the Edward Foundation was founded as the charitable arm to support Edward Hospital's mission to provide the highest quality services, technology, facilities and staff to the communities it serves.

An aerial photo of the grounds of the Edward Sanatorium, circa 1940, looking from the west. Courtesy of Edward Hospital

Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $56.7 million to support the mission Eudora envisioned more than 100 years ago.

Brett Skeen, executive director of the Edward Foundation, said Eudora's influence on the foundation today is a reflection and continuation of her philanthropic spirit.

"Eudora had the same passion for quality health care as we do today," Skeen said. "She shared her concerns with local citizens so they would be encouraged to utilize philanthropy to support the mission of the hospital."

• The Leaders & Legacies series is brought to you by the Legacy Society of DuPage Foundation. Suggestions for future stories can be sent to Mike Sitrick, executive vice president for advancement, at Interested in learning more about how you can make an impact or create a legacy for your community and favorite causes? Visit or call (630) 665-5556. DuPage Foundation is located at 3000 Woodcreek Drive, Suite 310, in Downers Grove, IL 60515.

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