Built in 1937 as part of the city hospital complex, the building that now houses the Palladium has a long, dynamic history. As the first municipal hospital in St. Louis, the city hospital was completed in 1845 to treat an outbreak of Asiatic Cholera. It was the first of its kind to admit all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. A long sordid history followed the hospitals grand beginnings and noble intentions.
In 1856 the original structure was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Devastation hit again with the cyclone of 1896 that caused massive damage in and around Lafayette Square Park. Patients would not return to the hospital until 1905, and the large Georgian style administration building facing Lafayette Avenue was complete by 1910.
Patient history and care has mixed accounts. The hospital began as a state-of-the-art facility, unlike any other hospital in St. Louis. However, the hospital had fundamental problems, patient reports of abuse and neglect tainted the hospitals reputation. In the 1950’s St. Louis City’s population peaked around 856,000, it was very densely populated compared to the 330,000 residents that occupy it today. The Laundry facility was pumping out 4,166,368 pounds of laundry in 1957 (DPHW, 1957). The nearby Power Plant burned 15,363 tons of coal to provide electric and steam power to the facility. Over time the facilities would become outdated, over-crowded and under-funded, lowering the standard of care to deplorable levels.
Managed health care was on its way for America, even for the poor, and talk of shutting down the decaying city hospital began. The hospital shut its doors permanently in 1985. The building stood vacant while redevelopment plans circled. Over the years, squatters and trespassers would be its only tenants, while thieves robbed the buildings of its valuable remnants: copper pipes and wiring and its beautiful cupolas.
©Rob Powers; builtstlouis.com
Redevelopment began in 2003 by the Gilded Age and many of the severely decaying buildings were demolished. The administration building was turned into luxury condominiums and The Palladium was the next building to be saved. Construction began in late summer of 2008, with new ‘Palladian’ windows and a restored copper cupola. It is currently being transformed into a contemporary private event space for all, maintaining the building’s rich history and architecture, and bringing life back to a part of St. Louis history.