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Ballpark Village's Medical History

The Spring of 2014 brought the long awaited opening of the first phase of Ballpark Village, a mixed-use entertainment and retail district being developed by the St. Louis Cardinals in partnership with the Cordish Companies.

Ballpark Village, a mixed-use entertainment district north of Busch Stadium.

Located north of Busch Stadium, many St. Louisans and baseball fans might remember that the Ballpark Village site had been the location of the previous Busch Stadium. Construction of that Busch Stadium had begun fifty years earlier, in 1964, on four square blocks of somewhat shabbily maintained warehouses, offices, taverns, and residences. In the 1960’s the area was home to St. Louis’s Chinatown and the neighborhood known as “Hop Alley.”

But in the 1870’s it was the epicenter of medical education in St. Louis - home to the two oldest medical schools west of the Mississippi. The Missouri Medical College was founded in 1840 and moved to 6th Street north of Elm Street in 1870. The St. Louis Medical College was founded in 1841 and relocated to the northeast corner of 7th Street and Myrtle Street (now known as Clark Avenue) in 1849. Both medical colleges would later merge to become the Washington University School of Medicine.

One block east from the St. Louis Medical College building was the office of Dr. John T. Hodgen, one of the most prominent and well-respected physicians of his day. Hodgen was an 1848 graduate of the Missouri Medical College. He was on the faculty of both colleges and later became dean of the St. Louis Medical College. During the Civil War he was appointed Surgeon General of the State of Missouri. When the foundations of Eads Bridge were being built beneath the Mississippi River he successfully diagnosed the cause of the mysterious “Caisson’s Disease” – now known as decompression sickness – which plagued the workers. He became President of the American Medical Association in 1881.

John Thomson Hodgen, MD (1826-1882)

 

Today with the elimination of 6th Street and Elm Street and the realignment of 7th Street and Clark Avenue (then known as Myrtle Street) it can be difficult to visualize where the old city streets once ran. The illustration below shows the original street grid overlaying a modern aerial photo of the Ballpark Village site.

Aerial photo of the Ballpark Village site showing the original street grid.

 

The locations of the St. Louis Medical College, Missouri Medical College, and John T. Hodgen’s office can be identified in this perspective map drawn in 1875. The Old Courthouse still stands today.

Urban St. Louis, circa 1875.

Below is an overlay of the current Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village site onto the 1875 building locations.

Overlay of current Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village site onto 1875 buildings.

Because Clark Avenue now gradually curves up to meet 8th Street it doesn't quite match up with its previous alignment. Clark ran further south, through what is now the northern concourse of Busch Stadium, until it made an abrupt jump north between 7th and 8th Streets. The St. Louis Medical College building stood at an intersection which would now be inside Gate 4 of Busch Stadium, The building would have extended north into the current path of Clark Avenue.

The St. Louis Medical College as it looked in the 1870's.

The St. Louis Medical College site, circa 1875.

 

The St. Louis Medical College site today.

The St. Louis Medical College site today.

 

The location of Hodgen’s office would have been just inside Gate 5.

John T. Hodgen’s office, northeast corner of 6th and Clark Street, circa 1940.

While the Ballpark Village site has a distinguished medical history, its current use as an entertainment district also has connections with the past. By 1940, when the photograph above was taken, Hodgen’s medical office building had become the Olympia Restaurant and Lunch Room. Notice the Alpen Brau Beer sign above the door. Alpen Brau was one of many local beers made in the St. Louis area. It was introduced for the St. Louis World's Fair and was revived after Prohibition by the Wagner Brewing Company.

 

 

 

 

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