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History of Michigan Avenue Dental Associates

Michigan Avenue General Dental Associates / Michigan Avenue Dental Specialty Associates

Michigan Avenue Dental Associates is the oldest, continuous operating dental practice in Chicago’s downtown. The practice was initially established in 1911 when young Dr. Grimson opened a dental office in the newly completed Peoples Gas, Light and Coke Company building at 122 South Michigan Avenue. The building was designated as a U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Daniel Burnham and Company was the designer of the building. The building was a magnificent structure built with marble and granite from around the world. The upper floors were designed for small business to carry on trade and commerce, floors 12 to 20. And the lower floors, ground to 11, accommodated the business needs of the Peoples Gas, Light and Coke Company. It soon became the premier address for dental, medical and law practices.

The company contributed significantly in the 19th century in making it possible for Chicago to grow from a western outpost names Dearborn Fort to a busy metropolitan, commercial center in the middle of the country in only 200 years. The Company was established in 1849 and was Chicago’s first utility, providing light and fuel to a growing center of commerce. As Dr. Grimson aged he had a young associate join in with him, Dr. Williams. Thirty-eight years later, a young Kansas dentist, Dr. Kenneth Washburn joined Dr. Williams. Later in Dr. Washburn’s career, he joined the teaching staff of the University of Illinois Dental School at the Medical Center here in Chicago. During Dr. Douglas James’s senior year in dental school, at the University of Illinois Dental School at the Medical Center, Dr. Washburn, one of his instructors, invited Dr. James to join him as a young associate at his practice in downtown Chicago in the Peoples Gas, Light, and Coke Company Building. Dr. James joined with Dr. Washburn as a young general dental associate.

Three years later Dr. James took the helm of the practice and Dr. Washburn became his senior associate. Soon after that transition Dr. Dahlberg, a contemporary of Dr. Washburn and a profession emeritus in Dental Anthropology at the University of Chicago merged his dental practice (located in the same building) with Dr. James and Dr. Washburn, and within six months Dr. Fey, a contemporary and friend of both Dr. Washburn and Dr. Dahlberg, who had a dental practice for 39 years just north on Michigan Avenue at 104 South Michigan Avenue, also merged his practice with the newly formed group. Now there were three senior general dentists and one younger general dentist (Dr. James, the office’s director) practicing out of the dental office, originally designed for one practicing dentist. Experiencing an urgent need to expand the office and at the fortuitous opportune time when the People Gas, Light and Coke Company was required by the Federal Trade Commission to reduce its monopoly position and transitioned into two separate companies, moved out, Dr. James approached the new owners of the building and arranged in 1990 to build out a much larger office to accommodate four doctors. He chose the 12th floor) the first stop of the upper bank of elevators) and selected a central location on the east side of the building facing our beautiful Lake Michigan overlooking Grant Park and The Art Institute of Chicago.

Realizing a need to provide the groups’ patients with convenience and the highest quality of care, Dr. James organized the practice to be divided into two subgroups, Michigan Avenue General Dental Associates and Michigan Avenue Dental Specialty Associates and arranged for dental specialists to join the practice. Unfortunately, as time passed and the circle of life became an unwanted reality, Dr. Washburn, Dr. Dahlberg, and Dr. Fey passed away. During this time Dr. James arranged for other dentists to join the practice as independent contracting dentists. Dr. James was hoping his daughter, Jennifer would join the group as a practicing periodontist. But she fell in love with her fiancé in Texas where she was attending the University of Texas Dental School working for her post doctorate dental specialty degree in Periodontics.

They plan on staying in Houston, where she will associate with one of her instructors in a Periodontal practice in Houston. Currently out group practice is a multi-specialty and general dental group practice providing a myriad of dental services to Chicago’s downtown growing community. Currently, this year is the 105th anniversary of the establishment of the practice by the then young Dr. Grimson in 1911.

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