Historic Shriners’ Hospital May Avoid Wrecking Ball

Shriners

Long slated for eventual demolition, the Shriners’ Hospital building on the Washington University medical campus may have a new future. On the agenda for this month’s City of St. Louis Preservation Board agenda, an application is being prepared to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register listing is a prerequisite for accessing federal and state historic tax credits and often a harbinger of future redevelopment.

The Washington University Medical Center Community Unit Plan dated 2007 shows nearly two dozen buildings labeled “proposed demolition”. Quite a few of these buildings are now gone, including the Ettrick Building (now BJC headquarters), Steinberg, Kingshighway and Shoenberg School of Nursing buildings (Children’s and BJC expansion under construction), and Schoenberg Researching Building (now a construction staging area).

Shriners' Hospital - St. Louis, MO

Shriners streetview

If you haven’t noticed the 1924 Shriners’ Hospital building it wouldn’t be surprising. Once a marquee corner before Kingshighway cut diagonally across this eastern tip of Forest Park, the building displaying some incredible detail is tucked away in the burgeoning medical center. And while perhaps not falling into disrepair, it, and the surrounding grounds, are a bit neglected.

We’re assuming a new use has been identified for the National Register listing effort to move forward, but have not been able to confirm if there is a specific plan or tenant in place. A new Shriners’ Hospital has been built just a block to the east from the 1924 building, which ceased operating as a Shriners’ Hospital in 1963, after a new facility was constructed in suburban Frontenac. Shriners announced in 2006 it would relocate to the Central West End medical campus.

WUMC Development Plan c. 2007

Shriners{the new Shriners’ Hospital on Clayton Avenue, one block east of 1924 building}

From the Preservation Board agenda:
The Shriners’ Hospital for Crippled Children was constructed in 1924 and expanded in 1928 with wings to house a nurses’ residence and a classroom. Developed as one of the first Shriners’ Hospitals in the country, the centrally-located facility was the largest in the Shriners’ hospital system and a major center for the treatment of crippled children and the training of nurses to work in the field. The medical “firsts” at the hospital include a successful operation to lengthen a leg in 1924 and the innovation of using skeletal traction to correct congenital dislocation of the hip in 1930.

The hospital is nominated under Criterion A in the areas of health and medicine, and also education. The period of significance begins with the completion of the original hospital unit in 1924 and extends to 1963 when the hospital was closed and all patient care was transferred to the Shriners’ Hospital on South Lindberg in St. Louis County. The Cultural Resources Office concurs that this property is eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion A.