St. Louis City Hospital

Historic Power Plants: A Tricky (But Rewarding) Resource to Adapt

Posted on: February 6th, 2013 by Michael R. Allen 1 Comment

 

This is the final installment of our guest series on the remarkable transformation of a hospital power plant in St. Louis. This week looks at other American examples of power plant reuse and examines what makes the City Hospital project unique. Read the series to date.

Seaholm Power Plant in Austin, Texas. Credit: Thelonious Gonzo, flickr
Seaholm Power Plant in Austin, Texas.

The Power Plant at City Hospital is the only historic power plant building in the United States that has been reused for a large-volume recreational purpose. Power plants remain difficult buildings to reuse due to their large open volumes, which have to be retained to some extent to qualify for historic tax credits.

A survey of adaptive reuse projects at historic American power plants shows that they tend to be used for office, retail and even residential space. It’s common for floors to be added in these configurations, making it even more significant that the City Hospital Power Plant retained its original space.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen is the Director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis, which he founded in 2009. Recent activities include learning video editing and naming his cat after Oscar Niemeyer.

The Power Plant Renovation: Imagination Becomes Adaptation

Posted on: January 30th, 2013 by Michael R. Allen 2 Comments

 

This is part 4 of our guest series on the remarkable transformation of a hospital power plant in St. Louis. Last week covered the plant's closure and deterioration, but today's post shares its exciting rebirth. Read the series to date.

Power Plant exterior after renovation. Credit: Climb So iLL
The Power Plant after renovation.

In 2010, the long-awaited renovation of the Power Plant building began, centered on finding a new use for the purpose-built structure. Developer Chris Goodson of Gilded Age partnered with Environmental Operations, Inc. to complete the renovation, and together they found an ideal match: Climb So iLL, a climbing gym looking for the ultimate home.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen is the Director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis, which he founded in 2009. Recent activities include learning video editing and naming his cat after Oscar Niemeyer.

 

Part 3 of our guest series on the remarkable transformation of a hospital power plant in St. Louis. Last week detailed how the hospital complex modernized over the first half of the 20th century; today's post explores how the second half brought closure and neglect. Read the series to date.

The Power Plant’s windows were missing by 1994. Credit: Preservation Research Office
The Power Plant’s windows were missing by 1994.

The closure of Homer G. Phillips Hospital in 1979, along with gradual cutbacks in Saint Louis and Washington University medical student interns, increased the burden on City Hospital. Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl, Jr. set up an Acute Care Task Force to study the hospital in 1983, strongly hinting that he wanted to see the hospital closed. Frustrated, the task force soon voted themselves out of existence.

That same year, Schoemehl told the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat, "We are shooting for a November 1st [1983] close date. City Hospital is finally so far out of repair that it cannot continue to operate." But others, especially African-American members of the board of aldermen, balked at the idea of shutting down the city’s last public hospital.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen is the Director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis, which he founded in 2009. Recent activities include learning video editing and naming his cat after Oscar Niemeyer.

Modernizing St. Louis' City Hospital and the Power Plant Building

Posted on: January 16th, 2013 by Michael R. Allen

 

Part 2 of our guest series on the remarkable transformation of a hospital power plant in St. Louis. Last week detailed how the hospital complex developed; today's post explores its expansion phase in the early 20th century. Read the series to date.

The Power Plant in 2008. Credit: Preservation Research Office.
The Power Plant in 2008.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen is the Director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis, which he founded in 2009. Recent activities include learning video editing and naming his cat after Oscar Niemeyer.

 

Today we're pleased to kick off a new series from guest blogger Michael Allen, founder and director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis. Over the next few weeks, he'll share the remarkable transformation of the power plant at St. Louis' City Hospital building -- the only historic power plant building in the United States that has been reused for a large-volume recreational purpose (in this case, a climbing gym!).

Our hope: that Michael's example of inventive preservation from his hometown inspires you to look at your local places with new eyes and fresh ideas. So if you have any questions or insights during the series, please share in the comments! -- J.R.
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Postcard view showing the completed group of Georgian Revival hospital buildings designed by Albert B. Groves, sometime after 1912. Credit: Preservation Research Office.
Postcard view showing the completed group of Georgian Revival hospital buildings designed by Albert B. Groves, sometime after 1912.

The stately red brick Power Plant at City Hospital today stands as a testament to the transformative power of adaptive reuse. The building now houses an indoor climbing gym as well as two restaurant spaces currently being built out. Few traces remain of the building’s long period of vacancy after City Hospital closed in 1985, and the boilers and generators that made this building an integral part of the hospital for 48 years have been removed.

Yet the form of the building, the lofty machine hall inside, and the building’s tall smokestack appear much as they did when drawn under the supervision of municipal architect Albert A. Osburg as part of a Public Works Administration-aided reinvention of the crowded City Hospital into a modern medical facility serving the city’s poor. After completion in 1937, the Power Plant has been a key part of the hospital’s three phases of life: service, abandonment, and renewal.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Michael R. Allen

Michael R. Allen is the Director of the Preservation Research Office in St. Louis, which he founded in 2009. Recent activities include learning video editing and naming his cat after Oscar Niemeyer.