Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Palladium added to national list of
"Most Endangered Historic Places"

The Palladium building in Grand Center has been added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation 2014 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Once home to Club Plantation, which hosted performances by many historically important jazz and blues musicians, the building (pictured) has been threatened both by neglect and by a potential expansion of the nearby VA Medical Center. The NTHP is a Washington-based not-for-profit group that works to save historic places in the United States.

The inclusion of the Palladium on their 2014 represents a potentially significant step in saving it, and a victory for local artist, author and activist Kevin Belford, who's been a vocal advocate for preserving and restoring the the building and created a Facebook group to publicize the effort.

On his blog Devil at the Confluence, Belford wrote:
"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."
Opened in 1913 as a roller skating rink, the Palladium also served as a dance hall that featured some of St. Louis' first jazz performances. Club Plantation, which occupied the building during World War II and into the 1950s, had the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra as house band, and presented early performances by important St. Louis musicians including Chuck Berry and Miles Davis as well as nationally known touring acts like Nat "King" Cole, Benny Carter, the Mills Brothers, and Ella Fitzgerald. The building was used as a thrift store in the 1980s but has been vacant for a number of years.

“The Palladium is one of the last remaining links to St. Louis’ important role as a center for African-American music in the 20th century." said a statement from NTHP president Stephanie Meeks. "Rather than demolishing this vital piece of America’s historic fabric, it should be restored to once again serve as a cultural center for the people of St. Louis.”

For more about the history of the Palldium and Club Plantation, see these two entries from Belford's blog.

Photo from the Save the Palladium Building at Grand Center Facebook page. Edited 6/26/14 to fix a garbled sentence.

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