Palladium Added to List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

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Palladium

The lost history of the St. Louis Palladium / Club Plantation, posted at the Devil At The Confluence blog, has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the building has been placed on the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

This is the only landmark in St. Louis ever recognized as an endangered national treasure. In its 27-year history, the NTHP’s list has brought attention to more than 250 sites, only a handful of which have been lost, according to the Trust.

The new research and the support from everyone on the Facebook group made the difference and now the possibility of demolition by the VA Medical Center is lessened. The Missouri State Historic Preservation Office and the VA’s own independent Cultural Resources survey confirms that the Palladium is significant for its association with culturally important events and social history.

The Palladium Building, Grand Center - St. Louis, MO

The Palladium - STL

In correspondence to the MSHP, the Veterans Administration said, “At this time, the VA considers it unlikely that the St. Louis Palladium property will be acquired.” And in a recent reply to me, the VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction said, “Presently the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has no plans to acquire the Palladium building.” But the threat by the VA was not the only danger, because deterioration was evident in a recent visit inside of the building.

Not merely “one of the old ballrooms,” the Palladium in Grand Center is a historic landmark of our city’s significant cultural legacy and has been associated with practically every genre of popular music and entertainment of the Twentieth Century.

The Palladium roller skating rink was built over 100 years ago when St. Louis ragtime was the pop music of the nation. St. Louis’ earliest jazz band was playing dances on the huge wood floor by its first birthday in 1914.

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The Palladium / Club Plantation - Grand Center - St. Louis, MO

During World War II and into the 1950s, the building was the famous St. Louis Club Plantation, a jazz and swing nightclub like the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City. The Jeter-Pillars Orchestra was the Plantation’s house band and a proving ground for many of the city’s best jazzmen while they hosted legends of American music such as Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Milestones of music history, the legendary artists and their stories are what make the Palladium more than just an old music hall and worthy of preservation – it is the de facto St. Louis music museum and nothing like this landmark remains as evidence of our legacy.

Gone are sites where the legends like Peetie Wheatstraw, Chuck Berry, and Ike and Tina made the St. Louis sound. Miles Davis’ first stage appearances were at an Elk’s Club, the Club Riviera, and the Club Plantation in the Palladium building. Only the Palladium still stands.

These world famous, culture-changing locations prove that St. Louis’ contributions are more significant to the development of American culture and popular music than previously assumed. This is our legacy and our identity and it has come very close to being completely lost.

Palladium building - St. Louis, MO

Palladium building - St. Louis, MO

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  • STLEnginerd

    IMHO one thing that I think should have been to orient Sweetie Pie’s customer entrance toward Enright. Most buildings in the area are oriented away from Delmar. (Sun Theater, Palladium, Urban League etc. So through Grand Center Delmar is essentially a rear access street. Instead of choosing to mimic that form Sweetie Pie’s chose to orient toward Delmar and turned its back to The VA hospital. I understand the choice, but I believe it was a poor one.

    Sweetie Pie’s draws a lot of people to the area, and I wish them the best of luck but there was an opportunity to drive traffic to the front area of the Palladium. Once the pump was primed with pedestrian traffic, the Palladium might have been able to find new life.

    As far as potential uses one that jumps to mind is as the permanent home for the Black Repertory Theater. Admittedly in the picture the ceiling looks lower than I expected so that might not work.

    Any idea what the current asking price is for the building?

  • mc

    It can definitely be restored to its original beauty as it was built in 1912. But it’s going to take a giant investment. Hopefully Vincent Schoemehl and his Grand Center can help.

  • dempster holland

    Another jazz haunt in the late 1950s and 1960s was Singleton Palmer on Delmar
    near Debaliviere, before he moved to Gaslight square. On another matter, if the
    choice for “most endangered” starts to depend on facebook, the list may become like
    all star baseball teams with votes going to the teams whose fans spend the most
    time on their computers or smart phones or whatever.

  • cza

    Kevin, really interesting stuff; you’re fighting a very good fight. I know very little about St. Louis, but in an interview I was doing with a retired Illinois state official, he mentions a popular dance hall circuit back in the late 1940s/early 1950s:
    “The three big ones”: Florissant, Black Jack, Gravois
    Red Light, in Ferguson
    Cold Water Creek Hall

    Ever hear of any of these? I’ve done a little armchair searching hoping to find a photo or two and haven’t turned up anything, but your posts made me think you’re the guy to ask.

    • Kevin Belford

      I was hoping that I could do more research into the post-war, mid-century music history, because it’s certain that it holds some important information about St. Louis’ arts legacy, but I haven’t had the opportunity to do so. I don’t know about the names you’ve posted, but there are people around who would have been a part of that scene. Please continue your research. Find primary sources and record interviews with them and post it!
      Kevin