Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Save the Palladium - Club Plantation building in Grand Center. Collected posts from August/September.

More of the postings from the Save-The-Palladium-Building-At-Grand-Center Facebook group -

The St. Louis Palladium is on top of the 2012 Most Endangered List from Landmarks Association.


Only ten over 100 years old remain.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri and dancing from the age of 14, Hortense Allen got her break at producing and choreographing shows at the Plantation, the largest club in town, with a revue and her own chorus line by the time she was twenty.

She produced and danced in shows at the Rhumboogie in Chicago and the Club Harlem in Atlantic City, choreographing hundreds of shows, dancing every style of dance, sewing costumes for her lines, traveling in road shows, playing all the major houses, teaching thousands of younger women. She fought the color prejudice that effectively barred any but the lightest African American women from dancing in chorus lines. She produced shows that headlined boxing champion (and tap dancer) Sugar Ray Robinson, bandleader Louis Jordan, and singer James Brown. "I just let 'em call me as a chorus girl and choreographer, because it was hard, really hard, for a woman, in my time, to be a woman producer, to come up. Because they wouldn't take you."

From JERRY BERGER Q&A, PD Magazine, Sunday, June 2, 1996.
"Looking through old family photos, I found some taken at the Plantation Club on Delmar Boulevard before World War II. Do you have any information on the club?"
-- John Ferguson, St. Louis 

Club Plantation, 3617 Grandel Square, was closed in June 1947 because it was caught in a squeeze between state law, which required early closing hours for such places, and the high fees that entertainers demanded. Anthony Scarpelli, operator of the popular club, which featured big-name entertainers, reportedly attributed the final blow to salary demands by the Mills Brothers. 
The musical group asked for $3,500 for a 12-night engagement. At the time, the Mills Brothers was a popular act on radio and in recordings. Other big-name stars that appeared at the club were Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, the Ink Spots and Louis Armstrong. 
(©1996 St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

In the 1940s, after taking the historic Vandeventer Place neighborhood down, the V A hospital demanded that the city demolish the Club Plantation and everything else near them in Grand Center.
This article is from 1947. That threat was made over 60 years ago and it was repeated a month ago:


The Missouri State Archives program on the history of pre-World War II St. Louis blues music.
Carnahan announces program on the history of the pre-war blues music of St. Louis
Posted: Monday, August 27, 2012 12:27 pm
Special to The American 
Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan today announced a program on the history of pre-World War II St. Louis blues music. The program will be held at the Missouri State Archives, a division of her office, on Thursday, August 30, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. Artist and historian Kevin Belford will be discussing his new book, Devil At The Confluence: The Pre-War Blues Music of St. Louis.

Devil At The Confluence is the first comprehensive book ever published on the history of St. Louis blues music. It tells the fascinating story of the profound connection between St. Louis bluesmen and their city.   Kevin Belford uses original illustrations, vintage advertising and rare photographs to detail the chronology of blues music in St. Louis. For Belford, what originally began as a desire to paint a portrait series on St. Louis blues artists ultimately turned into a 15-year historical inquiry. After combing through census records and other public documents, Belford pieced together musical profiles of many of the forgotten St. Louis-based blues recording artists from the 1920s and 1930s.

Belford reveals the untold history of the St. Louis blues movement and its contributions to American popular music. Show More Show Less
The Missouri State Archives is the official repository for state documents of permanent historic value and is located at 600 West Main Street in Jefferson City. All programs at the Archives are free of charge and open to the public, with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis.

I arrived hours early to do some searching and I was amazed. The Archive library is a pleasure to do research in. The staff is exceptionally helpful and the databases are swift and easy to search through. What an amazing state-of-the-art  facility. If you can't visit, Secretary Of State Robin Carnahan has done a terrific job to get the records available on the website:
This repository is a fine model of helpfulness and access that hopefully other archives will emulate.

The lecture went over very well. The audience was very interested in the stories of St Louis blues. It was a really great crowd in our state's Capitol city, and they genuinely share our pride in our historical legacy. We recieved a very nice compliment from Stephen Siwinski on the Facebook page: "Hands down the most entertaining and informative presentation to grace the James C. Kirkpatrick State Information Center. Big thanks to Kevin for painting such a vivid picture of pre-war blues in St. Louis." Thanks, Steve. If we ever get T-shirts made, we'll send you one.