Palladium Building Suffers Wind Damage, but Brighter Future May Be Possible

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Sometime in the night of Tuesday March 11, 2014, the top of the front facade and terra cota ornamentation of the Palladium building in Grand Center was broken and fell to the sidewalk.

The 100 year old building is an historic landmark of St. Louis that was once the Club Plantation and hosted music greats such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Sarah Vaughn. It is the only remaining building to witness firsthand that golden era of St Louis’ cultural history.

The Palladium was for sale a couple of years ago when it was a thrift store and is currently empty while the Veteran’s Administration was considering purchasing it for demolition in an expansion of the Cochran Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

The VA recently notified the Missouri State Historic Preservation office that it was going to wait before proceeding to acquire the building after numerous surveys and reviews determined that Palladium is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

There were high winds on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, but there appears to be no reports of destruction like this anywhere else in the area.

It can be seen in the photo that the top of the brick wall is broken away (and towards the street) exactly and only where the 100 year old ornamental work was that said “Palladium.” The vertical pipe still stands behind it, the corrugated metal access box, and even a blue plastic tarp remain on the roof next to the damaged facade.

Luckily this is only cosmetic damage and luckily also, it is the opposite side of the building that served as the front facade of the historic Club Plantation. Just last week Alderman Craig Schmid introduced BB 332, a bill penalizing “demolition by neglect” of historic buildings for situations just like this.

{the north Palladium Building facade where damage occurred}

{the south Club Plantation facade of the Palladium Building}

And it seems to be a too common occurrence that important historic buildings incur damage when they are for sale, because besides the new “demo by neglect” bill, the National Historic Preservation Act even has a rule that protects properties while under historic review. If you want a building down it helps if it’s partially falling, even if only ornamental pieces.

Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act is designed to prevent anticipatory demolition or alteration to the characteristics of the historic property qualifying it for inclusion in, or eligibility for the National Register. Which means the VA would not be allowed to buy the property in anticipation of demolition.

Of course, the cause of damage is only speculation now and even if only from a public safety standpoint, an investigation should likely be done. While the fallen elements would have been removed and replaced for any renovation, it’s clear that the building has been and is being neglected, along with our cultural history. There’s still time for the Palladium.

Check out the Save The Palladium at Grand Center Facebook page and nextSTL for updates.

More at: Abdicating Our History: Saving the Palladium and St. Louis’ Cultural History on nextSTL

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  • imran

    that break is a little too surgically precise to be wind related. And where are the remains of the terra cotta that fell off? do they add up? Just sayin’.

  • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

    The break occurred where the parapet wall and the roof meet. Likely the culprit was water infiltration behind the parapet due to failed flashing, not winds. This sort of damage is very common for historic buildings, but it is superficial. This is only a sign of a small roofing problem, not a structural deficiency.

    The owners of the Palladium need to list the building and see what price it brings on the market. The VA is hampered by the SHPO determination and may never put any money in the owner’s hand. Someone else would, no doubt, given how incredible this building would be renovated.