Built St. Louis > > Recalled to Life || The Ville > > Homer G. Phillips Hospital

The complex today (March 2007.)

Central wing abandoned, 1997.

1940s aerial view from a publication by builder H.B. Deal.

Circa 1997, the complex stands empty.

Ten years later, the same angle shows it in neat repair.

Renovation underway, spring 2002.

Spring 2003: Renovation continues.

March 2007: the completed project.

Back side of the complex, overgrown and abandoned, 1997.

Back side of the complex, restored.

Power plant, 1997.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital
The northern half of St. Louis city is awash in abandoned buildings. In the late 1990s, one of the most important was the empty Homer G. Phillips Hospital, located on Whittier Street in the heart of the Ville neighborhood.

The Hospital
Phillips was built to serve the city's black population, whose public treatment was provided by scattered charity wards at City Hospital. Black physicians could not gain staff privileges there, and eventually petitioned for and gained their own facility in 1919, in the vacant Barnes Hospital. A bond issue funded construction of a new, modern complex to replace Barnes, though the plan was nearly sidetracked by a city alderman's attempt to pass the oudated Deaconess Hospital to the black community instead.

The new building was designed by Albert Osburg. Construction on the massive art deco complex began in 1933. The Homer G. Phillips Hospital for Colored opened in February 1937 with 685 beds. It was named after a local attorney who had fought to gain a modern hospital for the city's black population and headed up the bond issue campaign. Phillips never lived to see his dream realized; he was gunned down on his way to work one morning in 1931.

The creation of this facility is widely considered one of the St. Louis black community's major achievements to that date, an admirable feat of community determination.

Desegregation, ironically enough, spelled the end for black hospitals across America, and Phillips was no exception. With public hospital system in the city already falling apart, the hospital was vacated in 1979. Its patients were referred to City Hospital, though that complex would follow Phillips into abandonment just six years later.

Homer G. Phillips stood empty into the late 1990s, though the clinic wing re-opened in 1991, and the nurses' home was renovated as low-income housing.

Helped perhaps by having activity on the site, or by the esteem of the community for their old hospital, the buildings never suffered the massive deterioration that many abandoned St. Louis buildings show. Among the buff stone and art deco detailing were numerous shattered windows, and, alarmingly, the red tile roof showed some damage along its edges. But the deterioration never had the chance to make it to an advanced stage.

In 2000, W.A.T. Dignity Corporation assembled an array of public and private financing to renovate the hospital. Renovation work began in December 2001 to stabilize the old building; the redevelopment was completed in summer 2003.

The completed building is now home to a 220-unit seniors residence, the Homer G. Phillips Dignity House / Senior Living Community. Community response to the renovation and reuse has reportedly been very favorable, and the residence reports near 100% occupancy with a waiting list.

Other resources
Ecology of Absence features a lengthy history of the hospital and the civil rights activist whose name it bears.

The hospital has also been the subject of a documentary film.

Power plant, 2007. A wing on the right side of the power plant has been demolished.

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