Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teen Seeks Team to Aid City Hospital

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teen Seeks Team to Aid City Hospital

Article excerpt

NEXT TIME you complain kids aren't interested in anything, consider Mike Allen.

At 13, Mike's taking on a project most adults won't touch. Already, some grown-ups wish he'd go play Nintendo.

The eighth-grader wants to save the old City Hospital at 1515 Lafayette.

This impressive red brick pile has been closed since 1985. It's been boarded up, broken into and stripped. Night-crawling crooks climbed five stories to take the copper off its cupolas. They look like broken bird cages, perched crazily on the roof.

This is the building Mike wants to get on the National Register of Historic Places. Mike may be the youngest person to attempt such a nomination.

One official says Mike has a good chance of succeeding.

Mike isn't even a St. Louisan. He lives in Columbia, Ill.

"I saw the building when my family was driving into the city. I thought, `What a shame.' It's beautiful. It represents a time when they designed hospitals more monumentally than they do now." Mike was fascinated. All the hospitals he'd seen looked like boxes.

"I did a paper about City Hospital. Now I'm writing a book."

Mike collected hospital maps, documents and floor plans. "I have some remodeling plans, the fire insurance plan, and a Xerox of the deeds - all under my bed.

"The St. Louis City Hospital Historical Society was formed four months ago by me. I'm executive director. We have one member, my friend, Justin Lewis. But we're looking for more."

City Hospital has a sorry history of poor care, huge debts and segregation.

After it closed, the Rev. Larry Rice wanted it as a shelter and training center for the homeless. Pantheon Corp., city developers with a string of successes, were also after the site. Pantheon got it, but couldn't do anything with it. The city took it back two years ago.

At that point, Rice said he didn't want to buy it. He told the Post-Dispatch the property had deteriorated too much.

Rice told me, "It's a beautiful structure, but it's been badly vandalized. At this stage, redevelopment would be difficult. If the city tore down some of the less historically significant buildings, we might be able to use the main building. But there's been no cooperative effort, even with the new administration."

The city wants to tear down the complex, said Pat Washington, Mayor Freeman Bosley's spokesperson.

But that's expensive, too: maybe $5 million. The complex has asbestos and other hazards.

"That's what convinced me the hospital should be on the National Register," said Mike. "It's so big. It will leave such a hole in the city. It's the first thing many people see when they come into town.

"I found out an application goes through three levels. City, state and national."

Mike realized it would be a long, slow process. National Register nominations are supposed to be almost impossible for amateurs. …

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