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.
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.
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.